Transforming Agriculture, Perennially

Scientific Publications

Chapter 1: Crop domestication and the first plant breeders

Author: T.S. Cox

Publication: "Plant breeding and farmer participation" 2009, Edited by S. Ceccarelli; E.P. Guimar; E. Weltizien, published by U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, pp 1-26.

If the story of modern humans from the beginning to the present day could be compressed into a feature-length movie, the era of crop domestication would occupy a scene approximately six minutes long, starting about ten minutes from the movie’s end. During that scene, the action would be scattered and sporadic; the domestication of any individual crop species would almost always occur in only a single locality and occupy only about 15 seconds to 2 minutes of the film.

In that brief era, in those rare places where today’s crops were born, every farmer was a plant breeder. And through succeeding millennia, as agriculture spread across the surface of the planet, much of settled humanity came to participate in plant breeding. Studies of ancient artefacts and botanical remains, ancient DNA, phytoliths, living plant populations, and the agricultural practices of surviving indigenous societies have converged to provide us with a vivid but still incomplete account of the first plant breeders’ genetic revolution.

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