Barley heads east: Genetic analyses reveal routes of spread through diverse Eurasian landscapes

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One of the world’s most important crops, barley, was domesticated in the Near East around 11,000 years ago. Barley is a highly resilient crop, able to grown in varied and marginal environments, such as in regions of high altitude and latitude. Archaeobotanical evidence shows that barley had spread throughout Eurasia by 2,000 BC. To further elucidate the routes by which barley cultivation was spread through Eurasia, simple sequence repeat (SSR) analysis was used to determine genetic diversity and population structure in three extant barley taxa: domesticated barley (Hordeum vulgare L. subsp. vulgare), wild barley (H. vulgare subsp. spontaneum) and a six-rowed brittle rachis form (H. vulgare subsp. vulgare f. agriocrithon (Åberg) Bowd.). Analysis of data using the Bayesian clustering algorithm InStruct suggests a model with three ancestral genepools, which captures a major split in the data, with substantial additional resolution provided under a model with eight genepools. Our results indicate that H. vulgare subsp. vulgare f. agriocrithon accessions and Tibetan Plateau H. vulgare subsp. spontaneum are closely related to the H. vulgare subsp. vulgare in their vicinity, and are therefore likely to be feral derivatives of H. vulgare subsp. vulgare. Under the eight genepool model, cultivated barley is split into six ancestral genepools, each of which has a distinct distribution through Eurasia, along with distinct morphological features and flowering time phenotypes. The distribution of these genepools and their phenotypic characteristics is discussed together with archaeological evidence for the spread of barley eastwards across Eurasia.




Lister, D. L., Jones, H., Oliveira, H. R., Petrie, C. A., Liu, X., Cockram, J., … Jones, M. K. (2018). Barley heads east: Genetic analyses reveal routes of spread through diverse Eurasian landscapes. PLoS ONE, 13(7).

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