New insights into the origin of buckwheat cultivation in southwestern China from pollen data
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Summary. Buckwheat is an important crop which originated in China and spread widely across Eurasia. However, exactly where in China domestication took place remains controversial. Archaeological and palynological records suggest a longer cultivation history of buckwheat in northern China than in southwestern China, but this conflicts with phylogenetic evidence implicating southwestern China as the centre of origin and diversity of buckwheat. We investigate alternative methodologies for inferring the occurrence of buckwheat cultivation and suggest that relative abundance could provide a reliable measure for distinguishing between wild and cultivated buckwheat in both present-day and fossil samples. Approximately 12 800-yr palaeoecological record shows that Fagopyrum pollen occurred only infrequently before the early Holocene. As southwestern China entered the early agricultural period, c. 8000–7000 yr ago, a slight increase in abundance of Fagopyrum pollen was observed. Approximately 4000 yr ago, concurrent with the Pu minority beginning to develop dry-land agriculture, the abundance of Fagopyrum pollen increased significantly, suggesting the cultivation of this crop. Fagopyrum pollen rose to a maximum value c. 1270 yr ago, suggesting an intensification of agricultural activity. These findings fill a gap in the Fagopyrum pollen record in southwestern China and provide new indications that early cultivation may have occurred in this region.
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