Broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) is one of the world's oldest cultivated cereals, with several lines of recent evidence indicating that it was grown in northern China from at least 10,000 cal bp. Additionally, a cluster of archaeobotanical records of P. miliaceum dated to at least 7000 cal bp exists in eastern Europe. These two centres of early records could either represent independent domestications or cross-continental movement of this cereal that would predate that of any other crop by some 2 millennia. Here, we analysed genetic diversity among 98 landrace accessions from across Eurasia using 16 microsatellite loci, to explore phylogeographic structure in the Old World range of this historically important crop. The major genetic split in the data divided the accessions into an eastern and a western grouping with an approximate boundary in northwestern China. A substantial number of accessions belonging to the 'western' genetic group were also found in northeastern China. Further resolution subdivided the western and eastern genepools into 2 and 4 clusters respectively, each showing clear geographic patterning. The genetic data are consistent with both the single and multiple domestication centre hypotheses and add specific detail to what these hypotheses would entail regarding the spread of broomcorn millet. Discrepancies exist between the predictions from the genetic data and the current archaeobotanical record, highlighting priorities for investigation into early farming in Central Asia.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.