Cannabis was domesticated in north-west China around 12,000 years ago



New Scientist Default Image

Hashish in Qinghai province, central China

Guangpeng Ren

Hashish was domesticated in what’s now north-west China round 12,000 years in the past, in keeping with an evaluation of the genomes of 110 vegetation from around the globe.

“It confirms it is likely one of the oldest cultivated vegetation,” says Luca Fumagalli on the College of Lausanne in Switzerland. “We predict it was a multipurpose plant. It was exploited for fibre, meals and oil, and presumably medical and leisure functions.”

It was solely round 4000 years in the past, the examine suggests, that farmers began breeding distinct strains for drug or fibre manufacturing.

Little has been identified in regards to the domestication of Hashish sativa as a result of it’s exhausting to pay money for the wide selection of various strains from around the globe wanted for genetic research. “You’ll be able to’t simply go and accumulate samples since you go to jail,” says Fumagalli.

Many sources counsel that hashish originates in central Asia as a result of many strains develop wild within the area. But it surely grows readily nearly wherever, he says. “That’s why it’s known as weed.”

Fumagalli labored with researchers around the globe to gather and sequence some 80 completely different sorts of hashish vegetation cultivated by farmers or rising wild. The crew additionally included 30 beforehand sequenced genomes within the evaluation.

The unique wild ancestor of hashish seems to be extinct however strains rising in north-west China are its closest dwelling family members, the crew discovered. The genomic relationship of round 12,000 years matches effectively with archaeological proof, together with pottery with hemp wire markings on it showing from round this time.


The crew recognized most of the genetic modifications caused by selective breeding by farmers. As an example, hemp strains bred for fibre manufacturing have a number of mutations that inhibit branching. These vegetation develop taller and have extra fibre in the principle stem.

Strains bred for drug manufacturing, against this, have mutations that improve branching, leading to brief vegetation with extra flowers. This maximises resin manufacturing. Drug strains even have many different mutations that increase the manufacturing of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the principle psychoactive substance.

Hemp was an necessary crop till round a century in the past, says Fumagalli, however declined because of the improvement of artificial fibres akin to nylon. Now there’s a resurgence of curiosity in hashish for fibre manufacturing, and for medical and leisure functions, with a rising variety of nations decriminalising the possession or rising of marijuana. The crew’s findings will assist breeders optimise strains for various functions.

Journal reference: Science Advances, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abg2286

Join Wild Wild Life, a free month-to-month e-newsletter celebrating the variety and science of animals, vegetation and Earth’s different extraordinary inhabitants

Extra on these matters:


Supply hyperlink