Aegilops tauschii, the diploid wild progenitor of the D subgenome of bread wheat, is a reservoir of genetic diversity for improving bread wheat performance and environmental resilience. Here we sequenced 242 Ae. tauschii accessions and compared them to the wheat D subgenome to characterize genomic diversity. We found that a rare lineage of Ae. tauschii geographically restricted to present-day Georgia contributed to the wheat D subgenome in the independent hybridizations that gave rise to modern bread wheat. Through k-mer-based association mapping, we identified discrete genomic regions with candidate genes for disease and pest resistance and demonstrated their functional transfer into wheat by transgenesis and wide crossing, including the generation of a library of hexaploids incorporating diverse Ae. tauschii genomes. Exploiting the genomic diversity of the Ae. tauschii ancestral diploid genome permits rapid trait discovery and functional genetic validation in a hexaploid background amenable to breeding.