Heady days for ancient DNA researchers. There have been two major papers in the past month looking at the DNA of Neolithic farmers. Back in June, a huge research consortium published “The genetic structure of the world’s first farmers” as
The cereal grass barley was domesticated about 10,000 years before the present in the Fertile Crescent and became a founder crop of Neolithic agriculture1. Here we report the genome sequences of five 6,000-year-old barley grains excavated at a cave in the Judean Desert close to the Dead Sea. Comparison to whole-exome sequence data from a diversity panel of present-day barley accessions showed the close affinity of ancient samples to extant landraces from the Southern Levant and Egypt, consistent with a proposed origin of domesticated barley in the Upper Jordan Valley. Our findings suggest that barley landraces grown in present-day Israel have not experienced major lineage turnover over the past six millennia, although there is evidence for gene flow between cultivated and sympatric wild populations. We demonstrate the usefulness of ancient genomes from desiccated archaeobotanical remains in informing research into the origin, early domestication and subsequent migration of crop species.
Global warming and climate change are the most prominent issues of the current environmental scenario. These problems arise due to higher concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which exert a warming effect. Although much attention has been given to anthropogenic sources and impacts of these gases, the significance and implications of microorganisms have remained neglected. The present review brings to light this overlooked aspect (role and responses of microbes in this context) in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Through existing literature, it attempts to assess the mechanisms that cause microbes to emit and absorb greenhouse gases. The consequent effects as well as feedbacks have also been studied. It was then found that microbes play a major role with respect to climate change. Thus, microbes should never be deprived of their due importance in climate change models as well as discussions on the matter. In addition, the review also identified the necessity of proper research in this aspect as there is a lack of adequate understanding on this facet of climate change.
Congratulations to Drs Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga, Jan Low and Howarth Bouis on being awarded the 2016 World Food Prize for their work on biofortification in general and the orange-fleshed sweet potato in particular: “Let Food Be Thy Medicine,” a
In February 2016, a new fungal disease was spotted in wheat fields across eight districts in Bangladesh. The epidemic spread to an estimated 15,741 hectares, about 16% of cultivated wheat area in Bangladesh, with yield losses reaching up to 100%. Within weeks of the onset of the epidemic, we performed transcriptome sequencing of symptomatic leaf samples collected directly from Bangladeshi fields. Population genomics analyses revealed that the outbreak was caused by a wheat-infecting South American lineage of the blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae. We show that genomic surveillance can be rapidly applied to monitor plant disease outbreaks and provide valuable information regarding the identity and origin of the infectious agent.
“Worldwide Evaluation of Quinoa: Preliminary Results from Post International Year of Quinoa FAO Projects in 9 Countries.” The title sounded promising enough. At last, something scientifically worthwhile emerging from one of those international years.
There’s a great set of photographs on the Facebook page of Leo Sebastian, Regional Program Leader, Southeast Asia at CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, based in Los Baños, Philippines.
Dr Sarada Krishnan of the Denver Botanic Gardens kindly sent us this summary of the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation’s conference on Plant Conservation and the Sustainable Development Goals, mentioned yesterday on the blog. Many thanks, Sarada. If many readers
The period from the late third millennium BC to the start of the first millennium AD witnesses the first steps towards food globalization in which a significant number of important crops and animals, independently domesticated within China, India, Africa and West Asia, traversed Central Asia greatly increasing Eurasian agricultural diversity. This paper utilizes an archaeobotanical database (AsCAD), to explore evidence for these crop translocations along southern and northern routes of interaction between east and west. To begin, crop translocations from the Near East across India and Central Asia are examined for wheat (Triticum aestivum) and barley (Hordeum vulgare) from the eighth to the second millennia BC when they reach China. The case of pulses and flax (Linum usitatissimum) that only complete this journey in Han times (206 BC–AD 220), often never fully adopted, is also addressed. The discussion then turns to the Chinese millets, Panicum miliaceum and Setaria italica, peaches (Amygdalus persica) and apricots (Armeniaca vulgaris), tracing their movement from the fifth millennium to the second millennium BC when the Panicum miliaceum reaches Europe and Setaria italica Northern India, with peaches and apricots present in Kashmir and Swat. Finally, the translocation of japonica rice from China to India that gave rise to indica rice is considered, possibly dating to the second millennium BC. The routes these crops travelled include those to the north via the Inner Asia Mountain Corridor, across Middle Asia, where there is good evidence for wheat, barley and the Chinese millets. The case for japonica rice, apricots and peaches is less clear, and the northern route is contrasted with that through northeast India, Tibet and west China. Not all these journeys were synchronous, and this paper highlights the selective long-distance transport of crops as an alternative to demic-diffusion of farmers with a defined crop package.
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