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Research

Since 2005, we have collaborated with archaeologists to work on the origins of agriculture. People first began farming and domesticating crops in multiple independent geographical regions 10,000 years ago. These early events in global agriculture transformed human history, and eventually gave rise to our modern food system where 60% of calorie intake comes from just three crop species.

Our research looks at how agriculture began and how crops were domesticated. To what extent did the characteristics we associate with domesticated crops arise from deliberate breeding, and to what extent did they arise unintentionally from the sowing, management and harvesting of plants? And why, out of all the edible plants exploited by hunter gatherers, did early agriculture become focused on a small number of staple crops? We compare the biology of crop landraces and wild relatives to make inferences about the processes at work during the origins of agriculture, looking at plant productivity, allocation, size and responses to the environmental limitations imposed by atmospheric CO2, soil nutrients and water.

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