The oldest crop adopted for agriculture was wheat (Triticum spp.). Their domestication started in their places of origin in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. However, people started collecting & eating wild grains before domesticating them around 105,000 years ago. Humans started farming independently in 11 parts of the world known as the “Centers of Origin.”
Domestication of animals started much before the domestication of crops. The dog is believed to be the oldest domesticated animal in the world. Their domestication started in Eurasia before the end of the Late Pleistocene era. In Europe, East Asia & Southwest Asia domestication of wild boar started about 10,500 years ago.
Oldest Agricultural Crop
Soon after 9500 BC, the domestication of eight founder crops of agriculture (first emmer & einkorn wheat, then barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chick peas and flax) started. The exact timeline of when wheat was first domesticated varies depending on the region, but it is generally believed to have been one of the first cultivated cereal crops in the world.
The domestication of wheat marked a significant shift in human society. It allowed for the development of agriculture & the transition from nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyles to settled farming communities which led to the development of civilizations later on.
Einkorn Wheat (Triticum monococcum): Among wheat, einkorn wheat is believed to be the oldest cultivated wheat species. It is considered as the man’s first wheat. It has 14 chromosomes while present-day wheat cultivars have 42 chromosomes. It is easily digestible and has more nutritional content than present-day wheat.
Modern World: At present, there are over 50 thousand cultivars of wheat in the world. It is cultivated in around 239 million hectares of land with a global production of around 425.5 million tonnes. China, the United States of America, India and France are the major wheat-producing countries in the world.