Maize (Zea mays), also known as corn, is an annual plant grown for its kernels and biomass. It is cultivated worldwide and is one of the most important of the world’s crops in terms of harvested area and total production. Maize is a staple crop in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
Maize was domesticated in southwestern Mexico, between 6000 and 10000 BP. Native Americans dispersed maize to the US Southwest, the Caribbean and South America in pre-Columbian times. Later, maize was dispersed to other regions of the world as part of the process that is sometimes called the Columbian Exchange.
Maize is conserved in the form of seeds. Genesys contains more than 100,000 records of maize accessions, with half being landraces. The largest maize collections are held in USDA-ARS genebanks and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). The global strategy for the conservation and utilization of maize genetic resources identifies a third large collection maintained at the Maize Cooperative Genetic Stock Center, Urbana.
CIMMYT and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) work together with other partners in the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE). MAIZE aims to expand the adoption of improved stress-resilient maize varieties in low and middle-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Asia.