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Crop Biotech Update

Radiocarbon-based Study Suggests Wheat Introduced to China in 2600 BCE

May 9, 2018

While rice is widely grown and consumed in China, it is not well known that the county is also the world's largest producer of wheat. Today, scientists would like to know the path that wheat took to get to China.

Prior research showed that wheat was first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent around 8500 BCE. It then spread west into Europe and east into Asia. In this research conducted by several institutions in Germany and China, researchers suggest that it was carried east to places along the Yangtze and then migrated west. They do acknowledge, however, that wheat could have been introduced into Asia, and more specifically into China many times. They suggest wheat was carried by travelers to eastern parts of China, where it was subsequently planted and harvested.

The team conducted radiocarbon dating on ancient wheat grains and charred wheat remains dug up in Bronze-Age and Neolithic excavation sites (Zhaojiazhuang and Dinggong sites in Shandong Province), which have yielded artifacts dating back to 8500—to 1500 BCE. Results of the tests showed that the wheat samples dated from around 2600 BCE, which predates grains found and tested in other parts of China.

More details about the research are published in a paper in Nature Plants.