An international research group led by researchers from Institut de
recherche pour le développement (IRD)-France, and involves the CEA and
Africa Rice Centre (AfricaRice), has identified the geographic origin of
African rice domestication. The group sequenced more than 246 African wild
and cultivated rice genomes, and revealed that rice was domesticated 3,000
years ago in the Inner Niger Delta in northern Mali. Their discovery
coincides with that of archaeological traces of rice domestication in the
The IRD group studied the full sequences of the genomes of 163 domestic
varieties and 83 wild varieties, harvested in the Sahel and East Africa. The
researchers have now generated the largest genomic database for African rice
available to date and analyzed the genetic diversity of the cultivated rice.
The researchers suggest that aridification of the Sahara may be behind the
domestication, and that wild African rice populations likely declined as the
Sahara dried up. The decline corresponds to the introduction of Asian rice
in West Africa by the Portuguese.