New research from Washington University in St. Louis points to Armenian origins of ancient crop with aviation biofuel potential.
Camelina, also known as false flax or Gold-of-Pleasure, is an ancient oilseed crop with emerging applications in the production of sustainable, low-input biofuels.
Multidisciplinary research from Washington University in St. Louis is revealing the origins and uses of camelina and may help guide decisions critical to achieving its potential as a biofuel feedstock for a greener aviation industry in the future.
Biologist Jordan Brock conducted several field expeditions to collect wild camelina during his time as a graduate student at Washington University.
In this study, the researchers determined that camelina was likely domesticated from the Caucasus region near what is now known as Armenia, about 6,000 to 8,000 years ago.
Breeding programs to improve this crop for biofuels applications should take into account the high levels of genetic diversity present in its wild progenitor, Camelina microcarpa, in Western Asia and the Caucasus region, the researchers said.
Camelina may have been a more important and widespread crop than previously thought, according to Brock’s new study in the American Journal of Botany, co-authored by Melissa Ritchey, a PhD candidate in anthropology, and Kenneth M. Olsen, professor of biology, both in Arts & Sciences at Washington University.
Archaeologists have long theorized that camelina was domesticated in the regions around Armenia, while plant geneticists had entertained different, competing hypotheses for the plant’s origins as a crop.
Ritchey said: “Through our analyses, we were able to test these hypotheses and provide a clearer consensus on the earliest domesticated appearances in Armenia.”
“Understanding the domestication history of camelina is an important and timely discovery because this effort has identified where novel wild diversity is present, especially in Georgia and Armenia,” Brock said. “This could prove to be a solution to the challenges of low genetic diversity in the crop.”