Molecular Diversity, Structure and Domestication of Grasses
Over the last 10,000 years, crop domestication has been the single most important human cultural development. Grasses are prominent among these crops, and provide the vast majority of the world's food. Similar traits have been selected during the domestication and breeding of these critically important grasses, and since they share a similar complement of genes, the same set of genes may have been selected. Even though the process of domestication occurred over the same 5000 to 10,000 year period, the domesticated grasses have major differences in genome structure, diversity, and life history. Molecular investigations of grass domestication have succeeded in identifying progenitor species and are beginning to catalog genetic resources. Additionally, research is now elucidating some of the basic processes by which crops have evolved over the last few millennia. In this review, we discuss our present knowledge of molecular diversity among the grass crops and relate that diversity to the genes involved in domestication and to yield gains. Understanding the connection between diversity and genome structure will be critical to future crop breeding.
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