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Darwin's Harvest

Darwin's Harvest: New Approaches to the Origins, Evolution, and Conservation of Crops

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Darwin's Harvest
    Book Description:

    Darwin's Harvest addresses concerns that we are losing the diversity of crop plants that provide food for most of the world. With contributions from evolutionary biologists, geneticists, agronomists, molecular biologists, and anthropologists, this collection discusses how economic development, loss of heirloom varieties and wild ancestors, and modern agricultural techniques have endangered the genetic diversity needed to keep agricultural crops vital and capable of adaptation.

    Drawing on the most up-to-date data, the contributors review the utilization of molecular techniques to understand crop evolution. They explore current research on various crop plants of both temperate and tropical origin, including maize, sunflower, avocado, sugarcane, and wheat. The chapters in Darwin's Harvest also provide solid background for understanding many recent discoveries concerning the origins of crops and the influence of human migration and farming practices on the genetics of our modern foods.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50809-4
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Botany & Plant Sciences, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Contributors
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Crop Plants: Past, Present, and Future
    (pp. 1-28)
    Timothy J. Motley

    Research on crop plants often has been at the forefront of revolutions in plant biology. Notable achievements include Charles Darwin’s studies of variation of plants under domestication (Darwin, 1883), the work of Gregor Mendel on the garden pea and the principles of inheritance, and the Nobel Prize–winning research of Barbara McClintock and her discovery of transposable elements in maize (McClintock, 1950). More recently with the development of the polymerase chain reaction (pcr) and automated sequencing technology, novel dna markers and gene regions often are first used by crop plant researchers before being used in other botanical disciplines. These techniques...


    • CHAPTER 2 Molecular Evidence and the Evolutionary History of the Domesticated Sunflower
      (pp. 31-48)
      Loren H. Rieseberg and Abigail V. Harter

      The domestication of plants and animals by prehistoric humans was perhaps the most far-reaching cultural development in human history. Not only were domesticated organisms crucial to the rise of modern civilization, but their widespread use has dramatically altered the ecology and evolutionary history of numerous other species (Diamond, 2002). As a consequence, there is great interest in determining the geographic origins and timing of domestication (Sauer, 1952; Harlan, 1971). Although seemingly straightforward, this task is complicated by poor preservation of plant remains, particularly in tropical regions, and by the difficulty of discriminating between wholly independent origins of domestication and the...

    • CHAPTER 3 Molecular Evidence of Sugarcane Evolution and Domestication
      (pp. 49-66)
      Laurent Grivet, Jean-Christophe Glaszmann and Angélique D’Hont

      Sugarcane is an important industrial plant in subtropical and tropical regions of the world, and almost 20 million ha is cultivated for its sucroserich stalks. Most of the crop is processed in specialized mills to extract sucrose. The primary use of sucrose is for human consumption, but in Brazil it is also used to produce ethanol, a renewable substitute for fossil fuels.

      Sugarcane prehistory evidently occurred in a vast area covering India to Polynesia. As with many tropical plants that are consumed for their vegetative organs, few remnants of sugarcane have been reported from archeological records (Daniels and Daniels, 1993;...

    • CHAPTER 4 Maize Origins, Domestication, and Selection
      (pp. 67-90)
      Edward S. Buckler IV and Natalie M. Stevens

      Wild on a Mexican hillside grows teosinte, its meager ear containing only two entwined rows of small, well-armored kernels. This unassuming grass might easily have been overlooked, were it not for the hand of nature that beckoned with abundant variation, a gift not lost on early agriculturists. Within the last 10,000 years, early Native Americans were able to transform teosinte into a plant whose ear, brimming with row upon row of exposed kernels, feeds the world over. It was a transformation so striking and so complex that some would not believe it possible, leading to years of competing theory and...

    • CHAPTER 5 Contributions of Tripsacum to Maize Diversity
      (pp. 91-118)
      Mary W. Eubanks

      Although more maize (Zea mays L.) is grown around the globe than any other crop today, scientists are still discovering how a wild grass with a small, few-seeded, shattering spike was transformed into the large maize ear with hundreds of kernels, a phenomenon unparalleled in the botanical kingdom. Under domestication maize lost its ability for self-propagation and became dependent on humans for survival. Therefore, the story of its biological evolution is tightly intertwined with cultural evolution. The maize genome, which is a diploidized allopolyploid (Gaut and Doebley, 1997) that contains many duplicate genes (Rhoades, 1951; Helentjaris et al., 1988) and...


    • CHAPTER 6 Evolution of Genetic Diversity in Phaseolus vulgaris L.
      (pp. 121-142)
      Roberto Papa, Laura Nanni, Delphine Sicard, Domenico Rau and Giovanna Attene

      Among domesticated plant species, the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is the most important protein source for direct human consumption (Singh, 2001; Broughton et al., 2003). It is a diploid (2n = 2x = 22), annual species and is predominantly self-pollinating, with the occasional occurrence of cross-pollination by pollinators such as the bumblebee, Bombus spp. (Free, 1966). Many studies have been aimed at determining the origins, domestication, and evolution of the genetic diversity of P. vulgaris. Since seed storage proteins first became important in bean research, the advent of molecular techniques has had a major impact on our understanding of...

    • CHAPTER 7 Cladistic Biogeography of Juglans (Juglandaceae) Based on Chloroplast DNA Intergenic Spacer Sequences
      (pp. 143-170)
      Mallikarjuna K. Aradhya, Daniel Potter and Charles J. Simon

      Juglans L. is principally a New World genus within the tribe Juglandeae of the family Juglandaceae, comprising about 21 extant deciduous tree species occurring from North and South America, the West Indies, and southeastern Europe to eastern Asia and Japan (Manning, 1978). It is one of the approximately 65 genera that are known to exhibit a disjunct distributional pattern between eastern Asia and eastern North America (Manchester, 1987; Wen, 1999; Qian, 2002; figure 7.1). Four sections are commonly recognized within Juglans, based mainly on fruit morphology, wood anatomy, and leaf architecture (Dode, 1909a, 1909b; Manning, 1978). Section Rhysocaryon (black walnuts),...

    • CHAPTER 8 Origin and Diversification of Chayote
      (pp. 171-194)
      Hugh Cross, Rafael Lira Saade and Timothy J. Motley

      The habitat and life history of a plant species will influence how individuals are selected and used by humans. For weedy climbers, such as members of the cucumber and squash family, Cucurbitaceae, little manipulation of the natural genetic stock has been necessary apart from selection for improved fruit size and taste. Once edible individuals were discovered and propagated, over time an enormous diversity of fruit size and shape arose by selection and dispersal. One potential source for this expansion of phenotypic diversity could be the gene pool that includes the crop’s wild relatives (Harlan, 1992). It is possible that this...


    • CHAPTER 9 Using Modern Landraces of Wheat to Study the Origins of European Agriculture
      (pp. 197-212)
      Terence A. Brown, Sarah Lindsay and Robin G. Allaby

      Agriculture began independently in China, Mesoamerica, and the Fertile Crescent of Southwest Asia, a region comprising the plains of Mesopotamia, parts of Syria and Palestine, and some of the mountainous areas to the east of Anatolia (Diamond, 2002). In Southwest Asia, cereals were among the first plants to be domesticated, with einkorn wheat (Triticum monococcum L.), emmer wheat (T. dicoccum Schübl.), and barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) present at farming sites dating to the 9th millennium bc (Bell, 1987; Kislev, 1992; Zohary and Hopf, 2000). After some 1500 years, cereal cultivation began to expand out of Southwest Asia into Europe, Central...

    • CHAPTER 10 Breadfruit Origins, Diversity, and Human-Facilitated Distribution
      (pp. 213-238)
      Nyree Zerega, Diane Ragone and Timothy J. Motley

      Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis (Parkinson) Fosberg, Moraceae) is a staple crop in Oceania, where it was originally domesticated. It is a versatile tree crop with many uses including construction, medicine, animal feed, and insect repellent. However, it is principally grown as a source of carbohydrates and is an important component of agroforestry systems. Unlike many herbaceous starch crops harvested for their vegetative storage tissues, breadfruit is a large tree grown for its fruit (technically an infructescence, as the breadfruit is a syncarp made up of many small fruitlets fused together) (figure 10.1). Many cultivars have no seeds, just tiny aborted ovules...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 11 Genetic Relationship Between Dioscorea alata L. and D. nummularia Lam. as Revealed by AFLP Markers
      (pp. 239-266)
      Roger Malapa, Jean-Louis Noyer, Jean-Leu Marchand and Vincent Lebot

      The greater yam, Dioscorea alata L., is the most widely cultivated species of yam in the tropics. It is grown for its starchy tubers that are harvested from 6–9 months after planting. Its origin has been a long-standing enigma of Oceanian ethnobotany and is still a subject of debate (Barrau, 1956; Bourret, 1973; Hahn, 1991; Degras, 1993). This chapter attempts to clarify its taxonomic status and position within section Enantiophyllum using amplified fragment length polymorphism (aflp) markers. Additionally, a brief review of traditional uses and folk classification in Vanuatu, Melanesia, and cytogenetic research is also presented and considered in...


    • CHAPTER 12 Evolution, Domestication, and Agrobiodiversity in the Tropical Crop Cassava
      (pp. 269-284)
      Barbara A. Schaal, Kenneth M. Olsen and Luiz J. C. B. Carvalho

      Cassava (Manihot esculenta), Euphorbiaceae, is the sixth most important crop globally (Mann, 1997). It is the primary staple crop for more than 500 million people worldwide, serving mostly the poor in tropical developing countries (Best and Henry, 1992). It is the major source of calories in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is grown primarily for its starchy roots, although it can serve as a leaf crop as well (Cock, 1985). Cassava is an inexpensive source of starch and is currently being developed for industrial uses as well as a source of animal feed, primarily in Asia. Nonetheless, most of the world’s...

    • CHAPTER 13 Origins, Evolution, and Group Classification of Cultivated Potatoes
      (pp. 285-307)
      David M. Spooner and Wilbert L. A. Hetterscheid

      Potato is the world’s most productive vegetable and provides a major source of nutrition and income to many societies. The story of the potato begins with wild potato species that look very similar to the cultivated potato today. Wild potatoes are widely distributed in the Americas from the southwestern United States to southern Chile, but the first cultivated potatoes probably were selected from populations in the central Andes of Peru and Bolivia sometime between 6000 and 10,000 years ago. These wild species and thousands of indigenous primitive cultivated landrace populations persist throughout the Andes, with a second set of landrace...

    • CHAPTER 14 Evolution and Conservation of Clonally Propagated Crops: Insights from AFLP Data and Folk Taxonomy of the Andean Tuber Oca (Oxalis tuberosa)
      (pp. 308-332)
      Eve Emshwiller

      Vegetatively propagated crops play an enormous role in feeding the world. They include crops that are important worldwide, such as sugarcane, potato, cassava, sweet potato, banana, and plantain, as well as crops of local or regional importance, such as true yam, edible aroids, and several minor Andean roots and tubers. Many of these crops are grown primarily for subsistence, under traditional, nonindustrialized farming systems, which still represent much of world agriculture. Thus they serve as an important safety net against starvation. These agroecosystems retain great diversity of potential use for future breeding efforts (Elias and McKey, 2000), yet studies of...

    • CHAPTER 15 Crop Genetics on Modern Farms: Gene Flow Between Crop Populations
      (pp. 333-346)
      Kenneth Birnbaum

      The Green Revolution and other modern farming practices dramatically changed the composition of farmers’ fields. In early assessments, a few modern varieties bred to produce high yields in very specific conditions were found to be rapidly replacing traditional varieties, which were bred and selected by farmers over millennia (Frankel and Hawkes, 1975; Frankel et al., 1995). This apparent abandonment of traditional varieties was cause for concern because crop breeders often used these cultivars as a source for resistance traits to combat devastating crop epidemics (Frankel and Hawkes, 1975; Frankel et al., 1995). However, careful fieldwork later demonstrated that traditional crops...

  9. APPENDIX I. Molecular Marker and Sequencing Methods and Related Terms
    (pp. 347-369)
    Sarah M. Ward
  10. APPENDIX II. Molecular Analyses
    (pp. 370-378)
    Timothy J. Motley, Hugh Cross, Nyree Zerega and Mallikarjuna K. Aradhya
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 379-390)