The domestication syndrome in vegetatively propagated field crops

Tim Denham, Huw Barton, Cristina Castillo, Alison Crowther, Emilie Dotte-Sarout, S. Anna Florin, Jenifer Pritchard, Aleese Barron, Yekun Zhang, Dorian Q. Fuller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


Background Vegetatively propagated crops are globally significant in terms of current agricultural production, as well as for understanding the long-term history of early agriculture and plant domestication. Today, significant field crops include sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum), potato (Solanum tuberosum), manioc (Manihot esculenta), bananas and plantains (Musa cvs), sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), yams (Dioscorea spp.) and taro (Colocasia esculenta). In comparison with sexually reproduced crops, especially cereals and legumes, the domestication syndrome in vegetatively propagated field crops is poorly defined. • Aims and Scope Here, a range of phenotypic traits potentially comprising a syndrome associated with early domestication of vegetatively propagated field crops is proposed, including: mode of reproduction, yield of edible portion, ease of harvesting, defensive adaptations, timing of production and plant architecture. The archaeobotanical visibility of these syndrome traits is considered with a view to the reconstruction of the geographical and historical pathways of domestication for vegetatively propagated field crops in the past. • Conclusions Although convergent phenotypic traits are identified, none of them are ubiquitous and some are divergent. In contrast to cereals and legumes, several traits seem to represent varying degrees of plastic response to growth environment and practices of cultivation, as opposed to solely morphogenetic ‘fixation’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-597
Number of pages17
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


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