ABD guide to origins of bread wheat. by Andrew Ormerod

Imagine bread wheat is built up of building blocks of genetic information, inherited from three ancestors, known as ‘Genomes’.  Two building blocks known as the A and B genome were inherited following a chance hybridization between an ancestral wheat, Einkorn and a goat grass in the Fertile Crescent millions of years ago.  But where did the third building block the D genome that allowed the production of quality leaven bread come from?

Bread wheat arose due to human activity.  Farming had spread towards the Caspian Sea. Farmers had brought their crops including forms of free threshing wheat derived from Emmer wheat an ancestor of bread wheat, from the Fertile Crescent.

Birthplace of bread wheat

Some time over 8,000 years ago perhaps in a plot of cultivated land in the countries between Russia, Turkey and Iran wind-blown pollen resulted in chance hybridization between local goat grass Trticum taschii and a relative of Emmer wheat.  This resulted in the creation of the first ancestors of modern-day bread wheat. The most likely country where this happened is Armenia particular near the southwestern shore of the Caspian Sea.  This chance event, which appears to have happened on a few occasions, had  a profound effect resulting in the production of bread wheat, now the number one crop in terms of land area around the globe on which it is grown.

It is hard to imagine that this goat grass with its small ears of grain that shatter when ripen is an ancestor of modern bread wheat but it provided important traits to modern bread wheat such as bread making quality, disease resistance and salinity tolerance. Without this chance event your daily bread may not be of the quality leaven bread

Bread of the future

The ancestors of bread wheat also have a role in bread wheat of the present and future, Triticum taschii natural diversity and ease of use in breeding programs means it has contributed nutritional and drought resistant characteristics to bread wheat in the developing world.

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About cornucopiaalchemy

Dr. Andrew Ormerod has 14 years experience working as the Economic Botanist at the Eden Project - researching topical stories, artefacts, ethnobotanical inks, catering and retail links to exhibits. Previously I was involved with plant breeding and plant tissue culture working on a range of crops including winter cauliflowers, agricultural lupins, vining peas, wheat and barley and coconuts. I am now freelance and am interested in opportunities for lecturing; writing articles; consultancy linked to development of botanic gardens for crops based exhibits; supply chain work for unusual food or non-food crops with interesting stories about plants and people attached to them.
This entry was posted in agriculture history, Founder Crops of Agriculture, Globalization of Crops, Near East, Origins of Agriculture, plants that move around the world, Wheat. Bookmark the permalink.

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