Threshing efficiency as an incentive for rapid domestication of emmer wheat

Raanan Tzarfati, Yehoshua Saranga, Vered Barak, Avi Gopher, Abraham B. Korol, Shahal Abbo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Background and AimsThe harvesting method of wild and cultivated cereals has long been recognized as an important factor in the emergence of domesticated non-shattering ear genotypes. This study aimed to quantify the effects of spike brittleness and threshability on threshing time and efficiency in emmer wheat, and to evaluate the implications of post-harvest processes on domestication of cereals in the Near East.MethodsA diverse collection of tetraploid wheat genotypes, consisting of Triticum turgidum ssp. dicoccoides - the wild progenitor of domesticated wheat - traditional landraces, modern cultivars (T. turgidum ssp. durum) and 150 recombinant (wild × modern) inbred lines, was used in replicated controlled threshing experiments to quantify the effects of spike brittleness and threshability on threshing time and efficiency.Key ResultsThe transition from a brittle hulled wild phenotype to non-brittle hulled phenotype (landraces) was associated with an approx. 30 % reduction in threshing time, whereas the transition from the latter to non-brittle free-threshing cultivars was associated with an approx. 85 % reduction in threshing time. Similar trends were obtained with groups of recombinant inbred lines showing extreme phenotypes of brittleness and threshability.ConclusionsIn tetraploid wheat, both non-brittle spike and free-threshing are labour-saving traits that increase the efficiency of post-harvest processing, which could have been an incentive for rapid domestication of the Near Eastern cereals, thus refuting the recently proposed hypothesis regarding extra labour associated with the domesticated phenotype (non-brittle spike) and its presumed role in extending the domestication episode time frame.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)829-837
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by Israel Science Foundation grant # 800-2010. R.T. is indebted to the Matanel Foundation fellowship. We thank Shebolet Muntz and Nitzan Wigoda for their skilful technical assistance. We thank the National Small Grains Collection (NSGC), USA, Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) Genebank, Gatersleben, Germany, Professor F. Salamini, Max-Plank Institute, Germany, and Professor Ismail Cakmak of Sabanci University, Turkey, for providing some of the germplasm used in this study.


  • T. turgidum ssp. durum
  • Triticum turgidum ssp. dicoccoides
  • conscious selection
  • emmer wheat
  • labour trap
  • post-harvest processing
  • protracted domestication
  • spike brittleness (br)
  • threshability


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