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Looking At Past Domestication To Secure Ecosystem Services Of Future Croplands

February 26, 2018 |

This paper was originally published in the Journal of Ecology

Abstract: Food security faces challenges that must be addressed from multiple perspectives. Ecology and agronomy contribute to that endeavour, allowing improvement in management practices. However, not only management affects food provision but also crop traits modulate key ecosystem services (ESs), including sustained yields.

Here we highlight that understanding how crop traits evolved under domestication, affecting ESs delivery, should help to breed future crops. We address the effects of crop evolution (from initial domestication to current times) on crop traits and key ESs: crop yield and its stability over time, soil carbon sequestration, soil nitrogen retention and water provision.

Synthesis. There is evidence that crop domestication affects the delivery of ESs. However, most of these evolutionary effects are understudied. Accordingly, we identify research gaps and necessary actions, including (i) assessing whether performance in polyculture is lower for modern crop mixtures than for mixtures of wild progenitors, and breeding for more efficient crop polycultures; and (ii) investigating how crop evolution impacted on plant effects on soil carbon sequestration and nitrogen retention, and how such effects contribute to yield stability. The provision of cropland ESs, and thus food security, will benefit from exploring those avenues from an ecological perspective…”

Read on and access the full paper at: Journal of Ecology.

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