Economic Botany

, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 5–10 | Cite as

Unconscious selection and the evolution of domesticated Plants

  • Daniel Zohary


Two types of selection operate (and complement each other) in plants under domestication: (a) conscious or intentional selection applied by the growers for traits of interest to them; (b) unconscious or automatic selection brought about by the fact that the plants concerned were taken from their original wild habitats and placed in new (and usually very different) human-made or human-managed environments. The shift in the ecology led automatically to drastic changes in selection pressures. Numerous adaptations vital for survival in the wild environments lost their fitness under the new sets of conditions. New traits were automatically selected, resulting in the build-up of characteristic “domestication syndromes,” each fitting the specific agricultural environment provided by the farmer.

The present paper assesses the evolutionary consequences of the introduction of the wild plants into several sets of contrasting farming situations. These include: (a) the type of maintenance applied, whether seed planting or vegetative propagation; (b) the plant organs for which the crop has been grown, whether they are reproductive parts or vegetative parts; (c) the impact of the system of tilling, sowing, and reaping on the evolution of grain crops; (d) the impact of the horticultural environment on fruit crops.

Key Words

Evolution of crop plants unconscious selection origin of domestic traits 


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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, NY 10458-5126 U.S.A 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Zohary
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Evolution, Systematics and EcologyThe Hebrew UniversityJerusalemIsrael

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