Washington, Jan 20 (ANI): A genetics study has found that people first cultivated grapes about 8,000 years ago.
A team led by Sean Myles of Cornell, looked at 1,000 samples of the domesticated grape, Vitis vinifera subsp. vinifera, and its wild relative, V. vinifera subsp. sylvestris.
Comparing the gene maps across the grapes, the team concludes that humanity has only begun to explore the genetic diversity of the humble grape.
The team said archaeological evidence suggests that grape domestication took place in the South Caucasus between the Caspian and Black Seas and that cultivated vinifera then spread south to the western side of the Fertile Crescent, the Jordan Valley, and Egypt by 5,000 years ago.
"Our analyses of relatedness between vinifera and sylvestris populations are consistent with archaeological data and support a geographical origin of grape domestication in the Near East," USA Today quoted the team as stating.
"Grape growing and winemaking then expanded westward toward Europe, but the degree to which local wild sylvestris from Western Europe contributed genetically to Western European vinifera cultivars remains a contentious issue.
"Our results ... all support a model in which modern Western European cultivars experienced introgression from local wild sylvestris," they concluded.
Edward Knipling, of the Agriculture Department, which sponsored the research, said in a statement grapes are one of the world's most economically important fruit crops, and this study shows not only the potential for developing new approaches for improving existing varieties, but also the genetic relationships between many common varieties.
Their findings have been published in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)