Jack Harlan

Study of Cultivated Plants

It's the birthday of the botanist Jack Harlan born on this day in 1917.
Harlan followed in the footsteps of his botanist father Harry Harland. He loved going on plant collecting expeditions - mainly in search of new genetic material for the USDA's crop breeding programs.
Harlan was worried about genetic vulnerability and genetic wipeout.
Harlan said:

"We  MUST collect and study wild and weedy relatives of our cultivated plants... we cannot afford to ignore any source of useable genes.”

Harlan wrote those words in 1970.
And one of his final works contains these words:

"We will not and cannot find a time or place where agriculture originated. We will not and cannot because it did not happen that way. Agriculture is not the result of a happening, an idea, an invention, discovery or instruction by a god or goddess. It emerged as a result of long periods of intimate coevolution between plants and man. Animals are not essential; plants supply over 90% of the food consumed by humans."

This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
Jack Harlan
Jack Harlan

Leave a Comment