CIMMYT Maize Germplasm Bank Activities and accomplishments

Located at CIMMYT headquarters in Central Mexico, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) Maize Germplasm Bank contains over 28,000 unique collections of seed of maize and related species from 88 countries. These collections represent the genetic diversity of unique native varieties and wild relatives of maize and are held under long-term storage for the benefit of humanity in accordance with the 2007 International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The collections are also studied and used as a source of diversity to breed for crucial traits such as heat and drought tolerance, resistance to crop diseases and pests, grain yield productivity and grain quality. Seed is freely shared on request to researchers, students, and academic and development institutions worldwide.

The International Maize Genetic Resources Advisory Committee (IMGRAC) provides guidance for the future of maize conservation

Maize genetic resource experts from around the world gathered at CIMMYT headquarters in mid-February 2016, to address both the progress that has been made and the setbacks that have occurred since the 2007 “Global Strategy for the Ex situ Conservation and Utilization of Maize Germplasm,” developed at the committee’s last meeting in 2006, as well as to determine priorities for the future of maize conservation and use. Eleven priority issues were identified by the meeting attendees, and the top five included: Political and financial constraints to access and conservation; Pre-breeding for direct use of farmers and breeders to address the challenges of climate change; Enhanced global collaboration on maize germplasm conservation; Conservation of maize wild relatives (Zea and Tripsacum species), and Enhanced global accessions-level information management.

(Top) IMGRAC meeting attendees pause for a group photo. (Bottom left) Suketoshi Taba, former head of the CIMMYT maize genebank, examines a teosinte plant. (Bottom right) Garrison Wilkes, longtime associate of the CIMMYT germplasm bank and teosinte pioneer, discusses the history of the CIMMYT maize germplasm bank.

Solar panels provide sustainable power for seed storage

With generous funding of 750,000 Euros from the German Agency for International Development (GIZ) , in May 2015 Germany’s Ambassador to Mexico, Victor Elbling, and CIMMYT’s Director General, Martin Kropff inaugurated solar panels at CIMMYT headquarters that will generate more than 34,000 kWh per month, largely as back-up power for the Germplasm Bank. “By investing in a sustainable solar energy generating system for CIMMYT’s gene bank, Germany invests in the food security of the world for which CIMMYT works every day,” said Kropff.

ISO pride 9001:2008

CIMMYT Germplasm Bank staff and colleagues are proud of the ISO 9001:2008 certification we obtained in 2012 and its renewal in December 2015, with zero non-conformities. Hurrah! The ISO certification provides an external validation of our internal processes, both for the Germplasm Bank and CIMMYT’s administrative support services. An important effect of certification has been a cultural change in CIMMYT, with staff across the institution committed to compliance, effective conservation, and active sharing of maize genetic resources worldwide.

Highland Maize Regeneration

For many years, we have struggled with the regeneration of our Andean materials from South America, as well as our Central American highlands collections. At 2200 meters, our Headquarters nursery near Texcoco was just not high enough! In 2004, we decided to try regenerating these accessions at CIMMYT’s Toluca Station, which is another 400 meters higher in elevation. There we have been able to regenerate many accessions that we were in danger of losing. At the suggestion of the station manager, Fernando Delgado, we decided to also plant improved highlands materials from our collection, many of which were developed at the Toluca station in the 1980s, to show to local farmers in field day events. With the support of ICAMEX, the State of Mexico’s Agricultural Research and Extension Agency, we held two highly successful field days, in 2014 and 2015. Participants graded the materials and provided us with a “top 12” list of their favorites. These are being incremented and will be distributed to farmers, free of charge.

Renovations provide deluxe storage, seed labs and showroom

Before and after renovations at the Wellhausen-Anderson Genetic Resources Center.

After nearly 20 years, in 2015 the Wellhausen-Anderson Genetic Resources Center, where the CIMMYT Germplasm Bank is located, received a much needed face lift. Renovations resulted in a new seed viability testing lab, expanded work areas, a newly covered external work area, and refurbished offices. An extremely popular facility, the Bank receives more than 1,300 visitors annually—nearly 6 visitors each working day—who learn about CIMMYT activities to conserve, study, use, and share maize and wheat genetic diversity, as well as how the seed collections contribute to worldwide farm productivity and sustainability. The Bank’s exhibition area is slated for renovation in 2016, before CIMMYT’s 50th Anniversary celebration in September 2016.

Smiling a global GRIN

CIMMYT’s Maize Germplasm Bank has migrated its information management and online services to a local installation of the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN Global) operating system, which was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with funding from the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

We are proud to be the first CGIAR center to implement GRIN Global and will support others with migration and implementation of this world class system.

2016 Maize Germplasm Bank Staff

Front row: Paulina Gonzalez, Assistant Research Associate; Denise Costich, Germplasm Bank Manager; Martha Hernandez, Laboratory helper.

Back row: Alejandro Velazquez, Laboratory helper; Marcial Lopez, Laboratory helper; Alfredo Segundo, Research Auxiliary, Luciano Juarez, Field Research Technician; Cristian Zavala, Asistant Research Asociate; Enrique Meráz, General research assistant; Martin Rodríguez, Assistant Research Associate; Francisco Martinez, General research assistant. Missing from photo: Marcial Rivas, Assistant Research Associate.

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