Crop lead center

Maize is the most important cereal crop for food in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, and a key feed crop in Asia. . It originated in Mexico but spread widely across North and South America during the pre-Columbian times. It was introduced into Africa in the 1500s and has since become one of Africa's dominant food crops.

Declining soil fertility and environmental stresses affect crop production and health in less developed regions. Climate change and degraded soils threaten the food security of millions, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Lack of access to seed and other inputs, underdeveloped markets, and low investment in research and extension worsen farmers’ marginalization in low-income countries.

Biological information

Maize, also called corn, is a cross-pollinated grass belonging to the tribe Maydeae of the Poaceae family. It was traditionally grown in the developing world as open-pollinated varieties, but hybrid maize is now grown more and more extensively in those regions. It is only grown as a hybrid crop in the temperate regions of North and South America and in Europe.

Zea mays is a diploid species with 10 pairs of chromosomes and a genome size of 2,500 Mbp. Genome sequence, molecular markers, maps and mutants collection can be found in MaizeGDB.


photo: © N. Palmer - CIAT


Crop database

To obtain the Central Database for Maize (which provides historical phenotyping data, germplasm information, trait information, and some genotyping data), download the Breeding Management System.

Data curators:

  • Claudio Ayala (CIMMYT)
  • Rosemary Shrestha [for Crop Ontology]



Molecular markers






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