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Seeds of Diversity

A Brief History of the CIMMYT Maize Germplasm Bank

CIMMYT’s Maize Germplasm Collection has a relatively long and interesting history. From 1943 to 1959, the “Office of Special Studies” was operating under the direction of the Mexican Department of Agriculture and the Rockefeller Foundation, and its staff carried out the first scientific collection and regeneration of maize landraces in Mexico. This collection was the beginning of what would become the MGB. The work was coordinated by Dr. Edwin J. Wellhausen, who also co-authored the Races of Maize series, and eventually became the first Director General of CIMMYT. Over the next seven years, before CIMMYT’s establishment in 1966, Mexico’s National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA) and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Inter-American Maize Program collaborated on new collections and arranged to store seed on the campus of the University of Chapingo, Latin America’s oldest agriculture college, located near Texcoco. Dr. Mario Gutierrez, the first head of MGB (1966-76), oversaw the transfer of the collection from Chapingo to CIMMYT in 1971, when the headquarters buildings were completed.

In September 1996, CIMMYT inaugurated the Wellhausen–Anderson Genetic Resources Center. The Germplasm Bank, shared between the maize and wheat collections, is made up of two vaults, each measuring 400 m3, with a combined capacity to store around 450,000 seed samples; there are also special facilities for recording, processing, conditioning, packing, and distributing seed as part of CIMMYT’s vital mission of conserving and distributing maize and wheat germplasm.



The CIMMYT’s Maize and Wheat Germplasm Banks are committed to providing healthy and viable seed, as well as reliable information, on the collections it preserves; carrying out the activities required for seed introduction, processing, conservation, and distribution; complying with international agreements and standards; and hiring qualified staff to ensure that the requirements of our clients are met. The Banks are thus committed to complying with ISO 9001:2008 and continually improving the effectiveness of the Quality Management System.

CIMMYT promotes unrestricted access to maize and wheat genetic resources and related information, with the purpose of benefiting the greatest number of countries in the world and, especially, developing countries. Seed shipments are accompanied by the required phytosanitary documentation and a Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA).​


Go to: CRP Genebank