From Wild to Domesticated: Scientists Reveal 100,000 Years of Continuous Rice Evolution - Science Label

From Wild to Domesticated: Scientists Reveal 100,000 Years of Continuous Rice Evolution


Rice is a staple food for more than half of the world's population, integral to the diets and cultures of numerous societies. The journey of rice from wild grass to domesticated crop is a testament to human ingenuity and adaptation. Recent research has unveiled an extraordinary 100,000-year evolutionary history of rice, providing new insights into its domestication and the development of agricultural civilizations.

Details of the Discovery

A team of Chinese scientists has traced the continuous evolution of rice, revealing that the domestication of this crucial crop was not a singular event but a prolonged process influenced by climatic changes and human activities. This comprehensive study, published in the journal Science, indicates that rice cultivation began around 24,000 years ago, with significant milestones occurring about 13,000 years ago and 11,000 years ago, corresponding with shifts in climate and human society​ (Xinhua)​​ (CGTN News)​.

Archaeological evidence from sites in the Yangtze River's middle and lower valleys, such as Hemudu and Shangshan, highlights these regions as critical areas for early rice cultivation. These findings underscore the significance of China as a major cradle of rice agriculture​ (Xinhua)​​ (CGTN News)​.

Scientific Methods and Techniques

The research team, led by Professor Lyu Houyuan from the Institute of Geology and Geophysics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, utilized a range of advanced techniques to analyze phytoliths—microscopic silica structures found in plants—from both ancient and modern rice. By studying these phytoliths, the scientists were able to identify specific traits associated with domesticated rice, such as the number of fish-scale facets on bulliform phytoliths, which correlate with domestication traits​ (Xinhua)​​ (CGTN News)​.

The team systematically examined archaeological layers and natural soil profiles from the Shangshan and Hehuashan sites in Zhejiang Province. This analysis revealed a continuous trajectory of rice evolution, linking changes in rice morphology with human agricultural practices and environmental factors over thousands of years​ (CGTN News)​.

Implications and Broader Impact

This research significantly enhances our understanding of human-rice co-evolution and the origins of agricultural civilization. The domestication of rice not only shaped human diets but also influenced societal development, settlement patterns, and cultural practices. By tracing the genetic and morphological changes in rice, scientists can better understand the interplay between human activities and environmental changes, offering valuable insights for future agricultural practices and food security​ (Xinhua)​​ (CGTN News)​.

The findings also highlight the importance of preserving genetic diversity in crops. Understanding the evolutionary history of rice can inform breeding programs aimed at improving crop resilience and productivity, which is crucial in the face of climate change and growing global food demands.

Future Research Directions

Future research will likely focus on further refining the genetic timeline of rice domestication and exploring the broader implications of these findings for other staple crops. Comparative studies with other domesticated plants could provide a more comprehensive picture of agricultural evolution and its impacts on human societies. Additionally, investigating the environmental and cultural factors that influenced early rice cultivation can offer deeper insights into the development of ancient civilizations​ (Xinhua)​.


The continuous 100,000-year evolution of rice from wild grass to domesticated crop underscores the complex interplay between humans and their environment. This groundbreaking research not only sheds light on the origins of rice cultivation but also highlights the broader significance of agricultural practices in shaping human history. As we face contemporary challenges related to food security and climate change, understanding the past evolution of crops like rice can guide future agricultural innovations and sustainability efforts.


  1. Xinhua News. (2024, May 24). Study reveals 100,000-year evolution from wild to domesticated rice. Retrieved from Xinhua News
  2. CGTN. (2024, May 24). Study reveals 100,000-year evolution from wild to domesticated rice. Retrieved from CGTN
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