Indian Mustard ‘Migrated’ From West Asia, Study

An ancient mustard plant that stars in modern Indian and Chinese cuisine experienced two “waves” of migration into India and China, says a new study.

AsianScientist (Apr. 1, 2013) – An ancient mustard plant that stars in modern Indian and Chinese cuisine experienced two “waves” of migration into India and China, says a new study.

Commonly known as oriental or Indian mustard, Brassica juncea is widely grown in Australia, India, China, Europe, and Canada. It is an economically important oilseed crop that has been studied internationally to improve commercial productivity.

Led by Assistant Professor Sheng Chen of UWA’s School of Plant Biology and UWA Institute of Agriculture, researchers in India, China, and Australia collaborated on a genetic study that aims to improve the plant’s diversity and ensure its sustainability as climate changes around the world. The study was published this week in the Journal of Heredity.

“Mustard has been cultivated for up to 7,000 years in China, where it is used as both an oilseed and vegetable crop,” the authors write. “It is the predominant oilseed crop in India and has been an important component of Indian agriculture since 2300BC.”

The study investigated mustard’s molecular genetic diversity as the Indian and Chinese types are distinct and adapted to different environments.

The Indian type is brown-seeded and adapted to autumn sowing in northern and central India where winters and mild and dry. Chinese types – both yellow and brown-seeded – are adapted to spring sowing in higher parts of central and western China while others in China are winter-hardy.

Plant scientists have disagreed for many years about mustard’s origins. Using molecular markers, the authors concluded that in ancient times there were two “waves” of migration of Brassica juncea into India and China from West Asia and places such as Afghanistan.

The Indian and Chinese agricultural types separated from each other during thousands of years of cultivation and selection, but are joined in history and ancestry through these waves of migration.

The authors hope that understanding the heritage of Brassica juncea will help broaden even further the genetic diversity of the crop and breeding for the future.

The article can be found at: Chen S et al. (2013) Evidence from Genome-wide Simple Sequence Repeat Markers for a Polyphyletic Origin and Secondary Centers of Genetic Diversity of Brassica juncea in China and India.


Source: UWA; Photo: Petr Pakandl/Wikipedia/CC.
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