(from Codex Magliabechiano facsimile, University of  California Press 1903)

PLB143: Evolution of Crop Plants

The origins of agriculture and the domestication of plants

Spring Quarter

Paul Gepts (Group Web page )
Department of Plant Sciences, Section of Crop & Ecosystem Sciences
University of California, Davis

Agriculture, the deliberate planting and harvesting of plants and herding of animals, is one of the greatest inventions of humanity. It has had marked biological, societal, and ecological consequences, which perdure tothis day and will do so for many years to come. In this course, we will examine the evolutionary processes that have affected plants during and after domestication. Specifically, we will discuss some of the modern analytical tools that have allowed plant biologists and archaeologists to learn more about crop evolution. We will examine where plant cultivation started and how plants were modified as a consequence of the selection pressures imposed by cultivation leading to their eventual domestication.

Some of the questions we will attempt to answer, are:

  • Where did agriculture originate and when?
  • Where did our major crops originate? Where were they domesticated?
  • How were plants modified as a consequence of cultivation?

Information about crop evolution, and specifically on patterns of genetic diversity generated by evolution prior, during, and after domestication, is important to develop sound genetic conservation programs (see course PLB151, Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources) and also increases the efficiency of breeding programs (see course PLB154, Plant Breeding).

Lecture Outlines

Note: Because of lack of support, the notes in HTML on this site are not being updated. However, the lecture slides for students (accessible within each lecture page as a pdf document) reflect updated (2011) information as much as possible. For the time being, these are only available to the domain. Sorry for any inconvenience.

The crop of the day

General Course Information

(this information is updated by the first lecture of the course in Spring quarter)

  • How are exams graded? (pdf)
  • Study questions midterm 1 (pdf): to be posted
  • Study questions midterm 2 (pdf): to be posted
  • Study questions final exam (pdf): to be posted
Term paper  

Important notice: This course material is provided freely for personal use. Please cite as: Gepts P (n.d.) The evolution of crop plants.  Paul Gepts 1995-2016

For institutional or for-profit use, please contact Paul Gepts at the University of California, Davis: plgepts at ucdavis dot edu.