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Lentil domestication: On the quality of evidence and arguments

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The current views on lentil domestication are based on biological attributes of the wild progenitorLens culinaris ssp. orientalis and on assumptions which have never been tested. Seed dormancy, a major factor in the adaptation of ssp.orientalis to its natural habitat, makes it inappropriate for cultivation, because poor germination causes seed yield following cultivation to be equal to the amount of sown seeds. Higher yield, resulting from the evolution of a non-dormant type can be obtained only after five or six cycles of unprofitable cultivation. It is doubtful that incipient farmers would have undertaken such an endeavor without preexisting knowledge that non-dormant types could eventually be obtained. Experiments involving the sowing of wild lentil would have been much more successful if the non-dormant types were present in appreciable quantities in the seed stock. Establishment of that type in the natural population would have required a period of seven to eight years with favorable growing conditions allowing the non-dormant type to become widespread in the population, followed by massive predation by man reducing the hazard of a population explosion. The close similarity between isozyme profiles of the cultivated lentil and its wild progenitor indicates that lentil cultivation was attempted with seeds derived from different populations and in different areas.

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Ladizinsky, G. Lentil domestication: On the quality of evidence and arguments. Econ Bot 47, 60–64 (1993).

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