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From Collection to Cultivation

A field of lettuce next to a cornfield


Wellcome Trust Investigator Award, 2020–2025

The genetic diversity of agricultural crop plants is essential to food security, present and future. But how this diversity makes its way into agricultural production—for example as more disease-resistant or nutritious crops—is not well documented. This poses problems for scientific and political decision making.

Over a five-year period, the team of researchers working on From Collection to Cultivation will develop histories of the knowledge, labour, techniques, and tools used to transform plants gathered around the world into novel crop varieties destined for farms, markets, and, eventually, dinner plates. Focussing on crops in the twentieth century, we'll follow plants as they circulated among agricultural explorers, plant pathologists, crop breeders, commercial farmers, and even allotment gardeners to better understand the histories of everyday foods, from maize to peanuts to chilli peppers and beyond.

In tracking down these untold stories, we'll together transform the history of how and by whom modern agricultural crops—and modern diets—have been made.

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