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Crop Biotech Update

Amazonian Farmers Discovered Secret to Wild Rice Domestication 4,000 Years Ago

October 18, 2017

Scientists from the United Kingdom and Brazil have found the first evidence that ancient South Americans learned how to grow bigger rice crops with larger grains, but may have stopped after 1492 when Europeans arrived and the indigenous population was decimated.

The archaeologists analyzed 16 samples of microscopic plant remains from 10 different time periods found during excavations in 2014 led by the University of São Paulo in South West Amazonia. More phytoliths, hard, microscopic pieces of silica made by plant cells, were found at higher ground level, suggesting that rice began to play a larger role in the diet of people who lived in the area – and more was farmed - as time went on.

The evidence of success of early rice farmers on vast wetlands near the Guaporé River in Rondônia state, Brazil, could help plant breeders develop rice crops which are less susceptible to diseases and more adaptable to the effects of climate change than the Asian varieties.

Read more at the University of Exeter News.