Articles | Volume 38, issue 1
Research article
07 Jun 2019
Research article |  | 07 Jun 2019

Chemotaxonomy of domesticated grasses: a pathway to understanding the origins of agriculture

Phillip E. Jardine, William D. Gosling, Barry H. Lomax, Adele C. M. Julier, and Wesley T. Fraser

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Cited articles

Andersen, T. S.: Identification of wild grasses and cereal pollen, Danmarks Geologiske Undersoegelse, Arbog, 1978, 69–92, 1979. 
Andersen, T. S. and Bertelsen, F.: Scanning Electron Microscope Studies of Pollen of Cereals and other Grasses, Grana, 12, 79–86,, 1972. 
Bağcıoğlu, M., Zimmermann, B., and Kohler, A.: A multiscale vibrational spectroscopic approach for identification and biochemical characterization of pollen, Plos One, 10, 1–19,, 2015. 
Bağcıoğlu, M., Kohler, A., Seifert, S., Kneipp, J., Zimmermann, B., and McMahon, S.: Monitoring of plant-environment interactions by high-throughput FTIR spectroscopy of pollen, Methods Ecol. Evol., 8, 870–880,, 2017. 
Bell, B. A., Fletcher, W. J., Ryan, P., Seddon, A. W. R., Wogelius, R. A., and Ilmen, R.: UV-B-absorbing compounds in modern Cedrus atlantica pollen: The potential for a summer UV-B proxy for Northwest Africa, Holocene, 28, 1382–1394,, 2018. 
Short summary
Many major food crops, including rice, wheat, maize, rye, barley, oats and millet, are domesticated species of grass. However, because grass pollen all looks highly similar, it has been challenging to track grass domestication using pollen in archaeological samples. Here, we show that we can use the chemical signature of pollen grains to classify different grass species. This approach has the potential to help unravel the spread of domestication and agriculture over the last 10 000 years.