Rice that made colonial Americans rich may have come from Ghana

November 20th, 2007 - 3:44 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Nov 20 (ANI): A high-quality rice that made plantation owners in colonial America rich may have been brought into the country by west African slaves who were used as labour on the plantations, a genetic research has found.

Rice became a cash crop for plantation owners in 1685 with the advent of high-quality variety called Carolina Gold.

Rice geneticist Anna McClung of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and molecular geneticist Robert Fjellstrom of the USDA in Beaumont, Texas in a bid to find out how the crop had come to the New World in the first place.

They noted that the first reported import of what is thought to be Carolina Gold occurred in 1685, when a slave ship from Madagascar unloaded a cargo of rice in Charleston, South Carolina.

This suggested that the rice came from that island nation off the east coast of Africa, or that, perhaps, it came from Asia and was picked up at a port on the way to America.

To find out if Carolina Gold originated from an indigenous African rice called Oryza glaberrima, the researchers searched the USDA Rice Germplasm Collection for varieties with a molecular marker, RM190, for a gene that controls the starch content in Carolina Gold. This marker turned up in fewer than 1 percent of the varieties.

They then narrowed the research by analysing 43 other molecular markers in Carolina Gold, and found one variety that shared 42 markers.

Called Bankoram, it had been sent to the USDA collection in 1972 from a seed bank in Ghana.

The finding suggests that Carolina Gold came from west Africa, just like the slaves who cultivated it.

“It’s nearly a perfect match,” McClung says.

However, the researchers stress that the study is preliminary, and that the possibility that Carolina Gold may have been taken back to Africa and wound up in the seed bank in Ghana cannot be ruled out.

But geographer Judith Carney of the University of California, Los Angeles, says a Ghanaian origin of Carolina Gold fits with the idea that Carolina Gold arrived in the colony as food on slave ships and was then planted by the slaves.

The researchers presented the results at the annual meeting of the American Society of Agronomy in New Orleans, Louisiana. (ANI)

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