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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Erskine, Willie
item Smartt, Joseph
item Muehlbauer, Frederick

Submitted to: Economic Botany
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/4/1994
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Common vetch and grasspea are closely related to lentil and often appear as weedy contaminants in a lentil crop. Distribution of vetch and grasspea throughout the world follows the path of distribution of lentil. It was theorized that this occurred because vetch and grasspea seeds evolved to closely mimic the size, shape and color of lentil seeds, thus making them almost indistinguishable from lentil. Following the distribution of vetch and grasspea, those species became domesticated and grown as crop plants throughout the world. This is a definite case of mimicry in plants and has evolutionary significance in the distribution and domestication of crop plants.

Technical Abstract: A hypothesis is proposed whereby weedy vetch (Vicia sativa L.) seed moved with seed of the cultivated lentil (Lens culinaris Medikus) as a tolerated weed during the spread of the lentil from the Fertile Crescent in the Near East to its current distribution. As a result, selection occurred in vetch weeds for a reduction in dormancy/hard- seededness, increased competitive ability and biomass, and phenological adaptation to new environments-predisposing the weed for domestication. The cropping of common vetch for forage in pure culture followed. Archaeological evidence of admixtures of grass pea (Lathyrus sativus L.) in Neolithic finds of lentil, pea (Pisum sativum L.) and bitter vetch (Vicia ervilia (L.) Wild.) suggests a similar process of selection in grass pea for a seedy habit from which domestication later occurred.

Last Modified: 10/15/2017
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