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Oxford Research Encyclopedia: Literature This link opens in a new window. A dynamic, peer-reviewed digital encyclopedia about literature in its broadest sense. The essays range from broad interpretive ones to specialized entries. This change was possible because of a random mutation in the wild populations at the beginning of wheat's cultivation. Wheat with this mutation was harvested more frequently and became the seed for the next crop.

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Therefore, without realizing, early farmers selected for this mutation. The result is domesticated wheat, which relies on farmers for its reproduction and dissemination. The earliest human attempts at plant domestication occurred in the Middle East. There is early evidence for conscious cultivation and trait selection of plants by pre-Neolithic groups in Syria: grains of rye with domestic traits have been recovered from Epi-Palaeolithic c.

By 10, BCE the bottle gourd Lagenaria siceraria plant, used as a container before the advent of ceramic technology, appears to have been domesticated.

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The domesticated bottle gourd reached the Americas from Asia by BCE, most likely due to the migration of peoples from Asia to America. The first domesticated crops were generally annuals with large seeds or fruits. These included pulses such as peas and grains such as wheat. The Middle East was especially suited to these species; the dry-summer climate was conducive to the evolution of large-seeded annual plants, and the variety of elevations led to a great variety of species.

As domestication took place humans began to move from a hunter-gatherer society to a settled agricultural society. This change would eventually lead, some to years later, to the first city states and eventually the rise of civilization itself. Continued domestication was gradual, a process of intermittent trial and error, and often resulted in diverging traits and characteristics. Some plants, such as the macadamia nut and the pecan , were not domesticated until recently. In other parts of the world very different species were domesticated.


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In the Americas squash , maize , beans , and perhaps manioc also known as cassava formed the core of the diet. In East Asia millet , rice , and soy were the most important crops. Some areas of the world such as Southern Africa , Australia , California and southern South America never saw local species domesticated. There are many challenges facing modern farmers, including climate change, pests, soil salinity, drought, and periods with limited sunlight. Drought is one of the most serious challenges facing farmers today.

With shifting climates comes shifting weather patterns, meaning that regions that could traditionally rely on a substantial amount of precipitation were, quite literally, left out to dry. In light of these conditions, drought resistance in major crop plants has become a clear priority.

Next, transferring these advantages to otherwise vulnerable crop plants. Rice, which is one of the most vulnerable crops in terms of drought, has been successfully improved by the addition of the Barley hva1 gene into the genome using transgenetics. Drought resistance can also be improved through changes in a plant's root system architecture, [55] such as a root orientation that maximizes water retention and nutrient uptake.

There must be a continued focus on the efficient usage of available water on a planet that is expected to have a population in excess of nine-billion people by Another specific area of genetic improvement for domesticated crops is the crop plant's uptake and utilization of soil potassium, an essential element for crop plants yield and overall quality. A plant's ability to effectively uptake potassium and utilize it efficiently is known as its potassium utilization efficiency.


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Cereals , rice, wheat, corn, sorghum and barley, make up a huge amount of the global diet across all demographic and social scales. These cereal crop plants are all autogamous, i. By breaking a single large population of cereal crop plants into several smaller sub-populations which can receive "migrants" from the other subpopulations, new genetic combinations can be generated. The Bambara groundnut is a durable crop plant that, like many underutilized crops, has received little attention in an agricultural sense. The Bambara Groundnut is drought resistant and is known to be able to grow in almost any soil conditions, no matter how impoverished an area may be.

New genomic and transcriptomic approaches are allowing researchers to improve this relatively small-scale crop, as well as other large-scale crop plants. Not overlooking particular crops that don't appear to hold any value outside of the developing world will be key to not only overall crop improvement, but also to reducing the global dependency on only a few crop plants, which holds many intrinsic dangers to the global population's food supply.