Crop plants were domesticated by prehistoric farmers through artificial selection to provide a means of feeding the human population. This article discusses the developmental genetics of crop domestication and improvement, including the historical framework and recent approaches in maize and other grasses. In many cases, selecting for a plant form that correlates with productivity involves controlling meristem activity. In the domestication of modern maize from its progenitor Zea mays ssp. parviglumis, QTL (quantitative trait loci) mapping, genetics and population genomics approaches have identified several genes that contain signatures of selection. Only a few genes involved in the derivation of the highly productive maize ear have been identified, including teosinte glume architecture1 and ramosa1. Future prospects hinge on forward and reverse genetics, as well as on other approaches from the developing discipline of evo-devo (evolutionary developmental biology).

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