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Close up of corn of several contrasting types.
The Maize Genetics and Genomics Database offers loads of information on traits, gene sequences and other features of this diverse and crucial plant species.

Here's One A-MAIZE-ing Website

By Luis Pons
December 15, 2005

Need some detailed data on the genetics and genomics of maize? Then the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Iowa State University (ISU) have just the website for you.

The Maize Genetics and Genomics Database, also known as the MaizeGDB, offers loads of information on the traits, genetic sequences and other related features of maize (Zea mays L. ssp. mays), including those aspects having to do with breeding and crop improvement.

The site is a portal to cutting-edge research on this staple crop, as well as to landmark work done decades ago. It also provides contact information for more than 2,400 cooperative researchers, along with web-based tools for ordering items such as maize stocks and cloned sequences.

MaizeGDB was developed by geneticist Carolyn Lawrence and information technology specialists Trent Seigfried and Darwin Campbell at ARS' Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit in Ames, Iowa, in collaboration with ISU researcher Volker Brendel in Ames and geneticist Mary Schaeffer of ARS' Plant Genetics Research Unit in Columbia, Mo.

According to Lawrence, the site presents maize information in a way that clearly summarizes biological relationships, and features easy-to-use computational tools. With it, a researcher can connect how a plant looks to the genetic sequences responsible for causing its phenotype.

Lawrence explained that maize is much more than a source of food for both people and livestock worldwide. It's also used in the manufacture of diverse commodities including glue, paint, insecticides, toothpaste, rubber tires, rayon and molded plastics. It is also the nation's major source of ethanol.

MaizeGDB is the successor to, and encapsulates the data from, two pioneer databases devoted to maize research: the Maize Database (MaizeDB), started by former ARS geneticist Ed Coe in 1991, and ZmDB, which was launched by the National Science Foundation-funded Maize Gene Discovery Project (MGDP).

The MaizeGDB website can be accessed at

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief in-house scientific research agency.