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Centers of origin and diversification
Centers of cultivated plants
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To understand the origin of most major crop species, the undoubtedly fundamental reference is a systematic, comprehensive, intense and possibly unique work - at least for the time it was done and the amount of material collected. The work was led, directed and largely carried out by the brilliant Russian agronomist and geneticist Nikolai I. Vavilov (1887-1943) between the 1920s and 1940s. During the Russian expeditions, a large amount of information was collected on the variation of different species cultivated for the germoplasm needs of the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

In addition, the main theoretical contributions were made with a greater mass of evidence, primarily botanical, regarding centers of origin and variation and areas of diversity of cultivated species, than has normally been the case in examinations or collections performed subsequently by other countries.

Vavilov pointed out that the centers of origin of most cultivated plants today begin in the botanical areas or regions where powerful formation processes are active. These regions generally include a significant number of endemic forms and characteristics, as well as a concentration of genetically related species or wild relatives. These regions are rich in plant species, including large quantities of edible species, and since the distant past have been inhabited by human populations that accumulated knowledge about this diversity and carried out different processes to generate the variation we know today.

Vavilov proposed eight centers of origin of cultivated plants, fundamental and ancient centers of agriculture in the world:
1. China, 2. India, 2a. the Indo-Malayan region, 3. Central Asia, including Pakistan, Punjab, Kashmir, Afghanistan and Turkestan, 4. the Near East, 5. the Mediterranean, 6. Ethiopia, 7. Southern Mexico and Central America, 8. South America (8. Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, 8a. Chile, 8b. Brazil-Paraguay).

Centers of cultivated plants according to Vavilov (1935)
(Source: Harlan 1971)