Barley (Hordeum vulgare ssp. vulgare) was first cultivated 10,500 years ago in the Fertile Crescent and is one of the founder crops of Eurasian agriculture. Phylogeographic analysis of five nuclear loci and morphological assessment of two traits in >250 domesticated barley accessions reveal that landraces found in South and East Asia are genetically distinct from those in Europe and North Africa. A Bayesian population structure assessment method indicates that barley accessions are subdivided into six clusters and that barley landraces from 10 different geographical regions of Eurasia and North Africa show distinct patterns of distribution across these clusters. Using haplotype frequency data, it appears that the Europe/ North Africa landraces are most similar to the Near East population (FST = 0.15) as well as to wild barley (FST = 0.11) and are strongly differentiated from all other Asian populations (FST = 0.34-0.74). A neighbor-joining analysis using these FST estimates also supports a division between European, North African, and Near East barley types from more easterly Asian accessions. There is also differentiation in the presence of a naked caryopsis and spikelet row number between eastern and western barley accessions. The data support the differential migration of barley from two domestication events that led to the origin of barley - one in the Fertile Crescent and another farther east, possibly at the eastern edge of the Iranian Plateau - with European and North African barley largely originating from the former and much of Asian barley arising from the latter. This suggests that cultural diffusion or independent innovation is responsible for the expansion of agriculture to areas of South and East Asia during the Neolithic revolution.
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