Theoretical and Applied Genetics

, Volume 114, Issue 6, pp 1117–1127 | Cite as

The Horn of Africa as a centre of barley diversification and a potential domestication site

  • Jihad Orabi
  • Gunter Backes
  • Asmelash Wolday
  • Amor Yahyaoui
  • Ahmed JahoorEmail author
Original Paper


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.


Wild Barley Barley Line Barley Accession European Variety Vulgare Subsp 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research work is dedicated to our mentor, Dr. G. Fischbeck, Emeritus professor at Technical University of Munich, Germany. We would like to thank the Eritrean farmers for allowing us to sample the spikes from their fields. We thank Mr. M. H. Matougui (Consultant -ICARDA) who assisted with the barley collection. Dr. J. Valkoun (ICARDA) provided the barley landraces from WANA regions and wild barley from Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. The Moroccan wild barley was obtained from Dr. J. L. Molina-Cano, Centre UdL-IRTA, Lleiden, Spain and the wild barley from Ethiopia were obtained from Dr. H. Bockelman, National Small-Grain Collection, Aberdeen, Idaho, USA. We also thank Mr. T. Ghebremania for his advice on the collection sites in Eritrea. Further we would like to thank Annette Møller for technical assistance. The financial support for this research was provided by Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA) and the Islamic Development Bank.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jihad Orabi
    • 1
    • 4
  • Gunter Backes
    • 1
  • Asmelash Wolday
    • 2
  • Amor Yahyaoui
    • 3
  • Ahmed Jahoor
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural SciencesThe University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Life SciencesFrederiksberg, CopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Ministry of Agriculture of the Government of EritreaHalhale, AsmaraEritrea
  3. 3.International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)AleppoSyria
  4. 4.General Commission for Scientific Agricultural Research (GCSAR)Douma, DamascusSyria

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