Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


History to Blame for Slow Crop Taming: Study


It’s been about 10,000 years since our ancestors began farming, but crop domestication has taken much longer than expected – a delay caused less by genetics and more by culture and history, according to a new study co-authored by University of Guelph researchers.

The new paper digs at the roots not just of crop domestication but of civilization itself, says plant agriculture professor Lewis Lukens. “How did humans get food? Without domestication – without food – it’s hard for populations to settle down,” he said. “Domestication was the key for all subsequent human civilization.”

The study appears this the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lukens and Guelph PhD student Ann Meyer worked on the study with biologists at Oklahoma State University and Washington State University.

Examining crop domestication tells us how our ancestors developed food, feed and fibre leading to today’s crops and products. Examining crop genetics might also help breeders and farmers looking to further refine and grow more crops for an expanding human population.

“This work is largely historical, but there are increasing demands for food production, and understanding the genetic basis of past plant improvement should help future efforts,” he said.

The Guelph team analyzed data from earlier studies of domesticated cereal crop species, and the American scientists also performed field tests.

To study the historical effects of interactions between genes and between genes and the environment, they looked at genes controlling several crop plant traits.

Domestication has yielded modern crops whose seeds resist shattering, such as corn whose kernels stay on the cob instead of falling off. Early agriculturalists also shortened flowering time for crops, necessary in shorter growing seasons as in Canada.

Domestication traits are known to have developed more slowly than expected over the past 10,000 years. The researchers wondered whether genetic factors hindered transmission of genes controlling such traits. Instead, they found that domestication traits are often faithfully passed from parent to progeny, and often more so than ancestral traits, said Lukens.

That suggests cultural and historical factors – anything from war and famine to lack of communication among separated populations – accounted for the creeping rate of domestication.

“We conclude that the slow adaptation of domesticated plants by humans was likely due to historical factors that limited technological progress,” said Lukens.

This research project stemmed from a meeting of anthropologists, archeobotanists and geneticists at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina.

Prof. Lewis Lukens
Department of Plant Agriculture
519 824-4120, Ext. 52304 or 58164

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or; or Kevin Gonsalves, Ext. 56982, or

Lewis Lukens | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Blame Evolutionary ancestors crop domestication farmers humans populations traits

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Network analysis shows systemic risk in mineral markets
16.11.2015 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht NIST study of Colorado wildfire shows actions can change outcomes
10.11.2015 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

Im Focus: Climate Change: Warm water is mixing up life in the Arctic

AWI researchers’ unique 15-year observation series reveals how sensitive marine ecosystems in polar regions are to change

The warming of arctic waters in the wake of climate change is likely to produce radical changes in the marine habitats of the High North. This is indicated by...

Im Focus: Nanocarriers may carry new hope for brain cancer therapy

Berkeley Lab researchers develop nanoparticles that can carry therapeutics across the brain blood barrier

Glioblastoma multiforme, a cancer of the brain also known as "octopus tumors" because of the manner in which the cancer cells extend their tendrils into...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Siemens Healthcare introduces the Cios family of mobile C-arms

20.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Plant Defense as a Biotech Tool

25.11.2015 | Life Sciences

“move“ – on course for the mobility of the future

25.11.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Understanding a missing link in how antidepressants work

25.11.2015 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>