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Crop Science Abstract - Opinion & Policy

A Pipeline Strategy for Grain Crop Domestication


This article in CS

  1. Vol. 56 No. 3, p. 917-930
    unlockOPEN ACCESS
    Received: June 10, 2015
    Accepted: Jan 05, 2016
    Published: March 11, 2016

    * Corresponding author(s): dehaan@landinstitute.org
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  1. Lee R. DeHaan *a,
  2. David L. Van Tassela,
  3. James A. Andersonb,
  4. Sean R. Asselinc,
  5. Richard Barnesd,
  6. Gregory J. Bautee,
  7. Douglas J. Cattanic,
  8. Steve W. Culmanf,
  9. Kevin M. Dorng,
  10. Brent S. Hulkeh,
  11. Michael Kantari,
  12. Steve Larsonj,
  13. M. David Marksg,
  14. Allison J. Millerk,
  15. Jesse Polandl,
  16. Damian A. Ravettam,
  17. Emily Ruden,
  18. Matthew R. Ryano,
  19. Don Wyseb and
  20. Xiaofei Zhangb
  1. a The Land Institute, 2440 E. Water Well Rd., Salina, KS 67401
    b Dep. of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, Univ. of Minnesota, 411 Borlaug Hall, 1991 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108
    c Dep. of Plant Science, Univ. of Manitoba, 66 Dafoe Road, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3T 2N2
    d Dep. of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, 100 Ecology Building, Univ. of Minnesota, 1987 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108
    e Dep. of Botany, Univ. of British Columbia, 3529-6270 University Blvd., Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada
    f School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State Univ., 130 Williams Hall, 1680 Madison Ave, Wooster, OH 44691
    g Dep. of Plant Biology, Univ. of Minnesota, 250 Biological Sciences Center, 1445 Gortner Avenue, St Paul, MN 55108
    h USDA–ARS Sunflower and Plant Biology Research Unit, 1605 Albrecht Blvd. N., Fargo, ND 58102-2765
    i Biodiversity Research Centre and Dep. of Botany, Univ. of British Columbia, 3529-6270 University Blvd., Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
    j USDA ARS Forage and Range Research, 700 N 1100 E, Logan, UT 84322
    k Dep. of Biology, Saint Louis Univ., 3507 Laclede Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63130
    l Dep. of Plant Pathology and Dep. of Agronomy, 4024 Throckmorton Hall, Kansas State Univ., Manhattan KS 66506
    m Museo Egidio Feruglio, CONICET, Fontana 140, Trelew (9100), Chubut, Argentina
    n Dep. of Agronomy, Univ. of Wisconsin–Madison, 1575 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706-1597
    o Section of Soil and Crop Sciences, Cornell Univ., 515 Bradfield Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853


In the interest of diversifying the global food system, improving human nutrition, and making agriculture more sustainable, there have been many proposals to domesticate wild plants or complete the domestication of semidomesticated orphan crops. However, very few new crops have recently been fully domesticated. Many wild plants have traits limiting their production or consumption that could be costly and slow to change. Others may have fortuitous preadaptations that make them easier to develop or feasible as high-value, albeit low-yielding, crops. To increase success in contemporary domestication of new crops, we propose a pipeline approach, with attrition expected as species advance through the pipeline. We list criteria for ranking domestication candidates to help enrich the starting pool with more preadapted, promising species. We also discuss strategies for prioritizing initial research efforts once the candidates have been selected: developing higher value products and services from the crop, increasing yield potential, and focusing on overcoming undesirable traits. Finally, we present new-crop case studies that demonstrate that wild species’ limitations and potential (in agronomic culture, shattering, seed size, harvest, cleaning, hybridization, etc.) are often only revealed during the early phases of domestication. When nearly insurmountable barriers were reached in some species, they have been (at least temporarily) eliminated from the pipeline. Conversely, a few species have moved quickly through the pipeline as hurdles, such as low seed weight or low seed number per head, were rapidly overcome, leading to increased confidence, farmer collaboration, and program expansion.

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