Crop domestication originated in compost piles
August 19, 2007
New research lends support to the theory that backyard gardens and refuse heaps played an important role in early crop domestication.
Writing in the August 17th issue of Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, an international team of researchers provide empirical evidence of spontaneous hybridization for a legume tree (Leucaena) in Mexico based on archaeological, ethnobotanical, geographical, and genetic data.
“We show that predomestication cultivation was widespread, involved numerous independent transitions from the wild to cultivation,” the authors write. “Our results suggest that backyard hybridization has played a central role in Mesoamerican crop domestication and demonstrate that the simple step of bringing species together in cultivation can provide a potent trigger for domestication.”
The researchers say they found “striking parallels between Leucaena and the other major Mexican perennial domesticates Agave and Opuntia, which show very similar domestication via backyard hybridization pathways.”
CITATION: Colin E. Hughes, Rajanikanth Govindarajulu , Ashley Robertson, Denis L. Filer, Stephen A. Harris, and C. Donovan Bailey (2007). Serendipitous backyard hybridization and the origin of crops. Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences Aug. 17, 2007. www.pnas.orgcgido10.1073pnas.0702193104