The Horn of Africa as a centre of barley diversification and a potential domestication site
According to a widely accepted theory on barley domestication, wild barley (Hordeum vulgare ssp. spontaneum) from the Fertile Crescent is the progenitor of all cultivated barley (H. vulgare ssp. vulgare). To determine whether barley has undergone one or more domestication events, barley accessions from three continents have been studied (a) using 38 nuclear SSR (nuSSRs) markers, (b) using five chloroplast SSR (cpSSR) markers yielding 5 polymorphic loci and (c) by detecting the differences in a 468 bp fragment from the non-coding region of chloroplast DNA. A clear separation was found between Eritrean/Ethiopian barley and barley from West Asia and North Africa (WANA) as well as from Europe. The data from chloroplast DNA clearly indicate that the wild barley (H. vulgare ssp. spontaneum) as it is found today in the “Fertile Crescent” might not be the progenitor of the barley cultivated in Eritrea (and Ethiopia). Consequently, an independent domestication might have taken place at the Horn of Africa.