Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: September 11, 2013
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The domestication of wheat was instrumental in the transition of human behavior from hunter-gatherers to farmers. It was a key event in the agricultural revolution that occurred about 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. Transitions of forms with natural seed dispersal mechanisms to forms with non-brittle rachises led to the domestication of diploid einkorn and tetraploid emmer wheat in southeast Turkey. These early domesticates were staple crops of early farmers for several thousand years before being replaced by free-threshing wheats. Allopolyploidization, mutations in genes governing threshability and other domestication related traits, and interspecific gene flow led to the formation of today’s economically important bread wheat. Genetics, genomics, and archaeobotany have together provided strong evidence and insights regarding the time, place, and events involved in the evolution and domestication of modern wheat, but numerous questions remain unanswered. Here, I review historical and recent findings that have shaped our current understanding of wheat domestication. Whole-genome sequence analysis, additional genetic studies, and advances in archaeology will likely address our unanswered questions in the future. A thorough and comprehensive understanding of wheat evolution and domestication will provide critical knowledge to the spawning of a new agricultural revolution, which will be necessary to provide sustenance for a rapidly increasing world population under global climate change.