Drought Stress in Plants: An Overview

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Abstract

Drought is one of the major constraints limiting crop production worldwide. Crop growth models predict that this issue will be more severe in future. Drought impairs normal growth, disturbs water relations, and reduces water use efficiency in plants. Plants, however, have a variety of physiological and biochemical responses at cellular and whole organism levels, making it a more complex phenomenon. The rate of photosynthesis is reduced mainly by stomatal closure, membrane damage, and disturbed activity of various enzymes, especially those involved in ATP synthesis. Plants display a range of mechanisms to withstand drought, such as reduced water loss by increased diffusive resistance, increased water uptake with prolific and deep root systems, and smaller and succulent leaves to reduce transpirational loss. Low-molecular-weight osmolytes, including glycinebetaine, proline and other amino acids, organic acids, and polyols also play vital roles in sustaining cellular functions under drought. Plant growth substances such as salicylic acid, auxins, gibberellins, cytokinins, and abscisic acid modulate plant responses toward drought. Polyamines, citrulline, and several enzymes act as antioxidants and reduce adverse effects of water deficit. Plant drought stress can be managed by adopting strategies such as mass screening and breeding, marker-assisted selection, and exogenous application of hormones and osmoprotectants to seeds or growing plants, as well as engineering for drought resistance. Here, we provide an overview of plant drought stress, its effects on plants’ resistance mechanisms and management strategies to cope with drought stress.