Plasticity and domestication

Yesterday I had a chance to share my research at the Cornell School of Plant Science Horticulture Seminar. This is the first time that I’ve spoken about how I became interested in plant plasticity —  the way and degree to which plants react to their environment. In the context of domestication, you can think of plasticity as the way plants behave when they meet humans. Some animals are easier to tame and bring into the family than others, and I think some plants were predisposed to join human society, too. My current project at Cornell is investigating how developmental plasticity may have played a role in the process of domestication.

Several years ago, when I was working on describing the lost crop erect knotweed, I found its changeability frustrating. Documenting what it looked like was like grasping at sand — there was no typical form. Gradually, I came to see this plant’s responsiveness to its environment as the subject of my research, rather than a barrier.

If you’ve never heard of lost crops, this talk is also a good way to introduce yourself!


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