Evolution of Food Plants

PLS 307
3 Units
S. McMahon
Modern society benefits from the understanding that food does not spontaneously appear in supermarkets. So too does it benefit from placing our agricultural systems in a deeper context. This course provides this context at a variety of scales, from the past 100 million years, 10,000 years, and 10 years, finishing with a peek into the future. We will explore the origins of food crops from their evolutionary beginnings, through domestication, to current agricultural breeding, allowing a deeper understanding of our current and future relationship to plants, Earth’s primary producers. Course Description and Objectives The course introduces students to the science of plant diversity through exploration of the origins and development of modern crop plants. Fundamental concepts of plant biology, morphology, evolution, and domestication are covered; recent research on common food plants are reviewed; and many food samples are directly investigated in class. The course includes hands-on experiences, active learning, and independent or collaborative projects.