Scientists from the United Kingdom and Brazil have found the first evidence
that ancient South Americans learned how to grow bigger rice crops with
larger grains, but may have stopped after 1492 when Europeans arrived and
the indigenous population was decimated.
The archaeologists analyzed 16 samples of microscopic plant remains from 10
different time periods found during excavations in 2014 led by the
University of S?o Paulo in South West Amazonia. More phytoliths, hard,
microscopic pieces of silica made by plant cells, were found at higher
ground level, suggesting that rice began to play a larger role in the diet
of people who lived in the area ? and more was farmed - as time went on.
The evidence of success of early rice farmers on vast wetlands near the
Guaporé River in Rondônia state, Brazil, could help plant breeders develop
rice crops which are less susceptible to diseases and more adaptable to the
effects of climate change than the Asian varieties.