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Book: International Germplasm Transfer: Past and Present
Published by: Crop Science Society of America and American Society of Agronomy



  1.  p. 31-45
    CSSA Special Publication 23.
    International Germplasm Transfer: Past and Present

    Ronny R. Duncan (ed.)

    ISBN: 978-0-89118-602-1


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Food Crops: 500 Years of Travels

  1. N. W. Simmonds
  1. University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland



A broad interpretation of the title might overestimate the importance of Columbus. His travels initiated some important intercontinental movements, but there were many others, before and since. To generalize: (i) all crops originated somewhere, but much nonsense has been written about Centers of Origin; crops originated wherever agriculture was practiced; (ii) long-distance crop movements have always occurred, but genetic variability is even now by no means universally dispersed; (iii) many and vast pre-Columbian movements of crops occurred around the Old World; (iv) a surge of crop movement was documented after Columbus, some of great historical importance, for example potato (Solanum tuberosum L.), cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz), sugarcane (Saccharum hybrids), banana (Musa hybrids), tomato [Lycopersicon lycopersicum (L.) Karsten], and squash (Cucurbita sp.); (v) contributions were not especially concentrated in any special areas or along special routes; in particular, the past Euro-centered emphasis on the eastern Mediterranean is not supported; (vi) the crop movements were of vast historical and social importance, far transcending economically mere gold and silver (the wreckers of the Spanish economy); (vii) with much left to do in the future, the maximum potential impacts of distributing genetic resources and ultimately using the desirable genetic variability are unlikely to be realized because of politico-bureaucratic obstruction; the outlook is bleak.

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Copyright © 1995. Copyright © 1995 by the American Society of Agronomy, Inc., Crop Science Society of America, Inc., 5585 Guilford Rd., Madison, WI 53711 USA