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Seeds of Discovery

Seeds of Discovery is a seven year, $70 million project to detail and share the genetic profiles of maize and wheat.

The world’s largest collection of maize and wheat seed (more than 175,000 varieties) is housed in a climate-controlled vault on the campus of CIMMYT’s headquarters. Every year, CIMMYT ships several tons of seed to researchers worldwide. Every year, researchers ship back 10 to 20 new varieties of maize and wheat to add to the seed bank. CIMMYT’s seed bank acts as a genetic library, cataloging the different types of maize and wheat grown worldwide. It has served, for decades, as a global resource for agricultural researchers.

Until recently, it has been prohibitively expensive to document the genetic profile of maize and wheat. The genetic profile of wheat, for instance, is seven times larger than the human genome. Consequently, only a portion of the genetic resources in CIMMYT’s seed bank has been discoverable. The different variations of maize and wheat seed — especially those with desirable trait such as heat and drought tolerance — has never been fully documented. Until now.

The cost of next-generation DNA sequencing platforms and high-throughput phenotyping technologies has fallen rapidly enabling CIMMYT to engage in a project — called Seeds of Discovery — to profile its entire seed bank and make the resulting genetic information (molecular and phenotypic descriptions) freely available to breeders, agronomists, and agricultural researchers worldwide.

Updated November 2015