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Escape to Ferality: The Endoferal Origin of Weedy Rice from Crop Rice through De-Domestication


Domestication is the hallmark of evolution and civilization and harnesses biodiversity through selection for specific traits. In regions where domesticated lines are grown near wild relatives, congeneric sources of aggressive weedy genotypes cause major economic losses. Thus, the origins of weedy genotypes where no congeneric species occur raise questions regarding management effectiveness and evolutionary mechanisms responsible for weedy population success. Since eradication in the 1970s, California growers avoided weedy rice through continuous flood culture and zero-tolerance guidelines, preventing the import, presence, and movement of weedy seeds. In 2003, after decades of no reported presence in California, a weedy rice population was confirmed in dry-seeded fields. Our objectives were to identify the origins and establishment of this population and pinpoint possible phenotypes involved. We show that California weedy rice is derived from a different genetic source among a broad range of AA genome Oryzas and is most recently diverged from O. sativa temperate japonica cultivated in California. In contrast, other weedy rice ecotypes in North America (Southern US) originate from weedy genotypes from China near wild Oryza, and are derived through existing crop-wild relative crosses. Analyses of morphological data show that California weedy rice subgroups have phenotypes like medium-grain or gourmet cultivars, but have colored pericarp, seed shattering, and awns like wild relatives, suggesting that reversion to non-domestic or wild-like traits can occur following domestication, despite apparent fixation of domestication alleles. Additionally, these results indicate that preventive methods focused on incoming weed sources through contamination may miss burgeoning weedy genotypes that rapidly adapt, establish, and proliferate. Investigating the common and unique evolutionary mechanisms underlying global weed origins and subsequent interactions with crop relatives sheds light on how weeds evolve and addresses broader questions regarding the stability of selection during domestication and crop improvement.

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