Plant Growth Regulation

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 135–148 | Cite as

Crop responses to drought and the interpretation of adaptation



Drought is a multidimensional stress affecting plants at various levels of their organization. The effect of and plant response to drought at the whole plant and crop level is most complex because it reflects the integration of stress effects and responses at all underlying levels of organization over space and time. This review discusses some of the major aspects of crop response to drought stress which are relevant for plant breeding. Emphasis is given to whole plant aspects which are too often disregarded when conclusions are drawn from molecular studies towards the genetic improvement of crop drought resistance. Topics discussed are seedling emergence and establishment, plant phenology, leaf area, water deficit and assimilation, osmotic adjustment, the root and the formation of yield. The discussion is concluded with the interpretation of crop adaptation to drought conditions in its agronomic sense. Conclusions are drawn regarding plant breeding for drought-prone conditions.


Leaf Area Drought Stress Water Deficit Plant Breeding Plant Response 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Angus JF and Moncur MW (1977) Water stress and phenology in wheat. Aust J Agric Res 28: 177–181Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bartels D and Nelson D (1994) Approaches to improve stress tolerance using molecular genetics Plant Cell and Environ 17: 659–667Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Basnayake J, Copper M, Ludlow MM and Henzell RG (1994) Combining ability variation of osmotic adjustment among a selected range of grain sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L. Moench) lines. Field Crops Res 38: 147–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bidinger FR, Mahalakshmi V and Rao GDP (1987) Assessment of drought resistance in pearl millet (Pennisetum americanum (L.) Leeke). I. Factors affecting yields under stress. Aust J Agric Res 38: 37–48Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bieleski RL (1993) Fructan hydrolysis drives petal expansion in the ephemeral daylily flower. Plant Physiol 103: 213–219PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Blum A (1988) Plant Breeding for Stress Environments. CRC Press, Boca Raton Florida 208 ppGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Blum A (1992) Selection for sustainable production in water-deficit environments. Internat Crop Sci I, Crop Sci Soc Am, Madison, pp 343–347Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Blum A and Ebercon A (1981) Cell membrane stability as a measure of drought and heat tolerance in wheat. Crop Sci 21: 43–47Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Blum A and Arkin GF (1984) Sorghum root growth and water-use as affected by water supply and growth duration. Field Crops Res 9: 131–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Blum A and Ritchie JT (1984) Effect of soil surface water content on sorghum root distribution in the soil. Field Crops Res 8: 169–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Blum A and Johnson JW (1992) Transfer of water from roots into dry soil and the effect on wheat water relations and growth. Plant and Soil 145: 141–146Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Blum A and Pnuel Y (1990) Physiological Attributes Associated with Drought Resistance of Wheat Cultivars in a Mediterranean Environment. Aust Jour Agric Res 41: 799–810Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Blum A, Arkin GF and Jordan WR (1977) Sorghum root morphogenesis and growth. I. Effect of maturity genes. Crop Sci 17: 149–153Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Blum A, Golan G, Mayer J, Sinmena B and Obilana T (1992) The comparative productivity and drought response of semitropical hybrids and open-pollinated varieties of sorghum. J Agric Sci Camb 118: 29–36Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Blum A, Johnson JW, Ramseur EL and Tollner EW (1991) The effect of a drying top soil and a possible non-hydraulic root signal on wheat growth and yield. J Exp Bot 42: 1225–1231Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Blum A, Mayer J and Golan G (1988) The effect of grain number (sink size) on source activity and its water-relations in wheat. J Exp Bot 39: 106–114Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Blum A, Mayer J and Gozlan G (1983) Associations between plant production and some physiological components of drought resistance in wheat. Plant Cell and Environ 6: 219–225Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Blum A, Ramaiah S, Kanemasu ET and Paulsen GM (1990) Recovery of wheat from drought stress at the tillering developmental stage. Field Crops Res 24: 67–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Blum A, Shpiler L, Golan G and Mayer J (1990b) Yield stability and canopy temperature of wheat genotypes under drought stress. Field Crops Res 22: 289–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Blum A, Sinmena B and Ziv O (1980) An evaluation of seed and seedling drought tolerance screening tests in wheat. Euphytica 29: 727–736Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Blum A, Sinmena B, Mayer J, Golan G and Shpiler L (1994) Stem reserve mobilisation supports wheat grain filling under heat stress. Aust J Plant Physiol 21: 771–781Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Bolanos J and Edmeades GO (1991) Value of selection for osmotic potential in tropical maize. Agron J 83: 948–956Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Boyle MG, Boyer JS and Morgan PW (1991) Stem infusion of liquid culture medium prevents reproductive failure of maize at low water potential. Crop Sci 31: 1246–1252Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Byrne PF, Bolanos J, Edmeades GO and Eaton DL (1995) Gains from selection under drought versus multilocation testing in related tropical maize populations. Crop Sci 35: 63–69Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Casal JJ (1988) Light quality effects on the appearance of tillers of different order in wheat (Triticum aestivum). Ann Appl Biol 112: 167–173Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Ceccarelli S and Grando S (1991) Selection Environment and Environmental Sensitivity in Barley. Euphytica 57: 157–167Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Chandler PM and Robertson M (1994) Gene expression regulated by abscisic acid and its relation to stress tolerance. Ann Rev Plant Physiol and Mol Biol 45: 113–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Chaves MM (1991) Effects of water deficits on carbon assimilation—review article. J Exp Bot 42: 1–16Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Craufurd PQ, Flower DJ and Peacock JM (1993) Effect of heat and drought stress on sorghum (Sorghum bicolor). 1. Panicle development and leaf appearance. Exp Agric 29: 61–76Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Davies WJ, Tardieu F and Trejo CL (1994) How do chemical signals work in plants that grow in drying soil. Plant Physiol 104: 309–314PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Donatelli M, Hammer GL and Vanderlip RL (1992) Genotype and water limitation effects on phenology, growth, and transpiration efficiency in grain sorghum Crop Sci 32: 781–786Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Dwyer LM and Stewart DW (1987) Influence of photoperiod and water stress on growth, yield and development rate of barley measured in heat units. Can J Plant Sci 67: 21–34Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Elalaoui AC, Simmons SR and Crookston RK (1992) Allocation of photoassimilate by main shoots and nonsurviving tillers in barley Crop Sci 32: 1233–1237Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Farquhar GD, Wong SC, Evans JR and Hubick KT (1989) Photosynthesis and gas exchange. In: Jones HG, Flowers TJ and Jones MB (eds) Plants Under Stress, pp 47–69. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Flower DJ, Rani AU and Peacock JM (1990) Influence of osmotic adjustment on the growth, stomatal conductance and light interception of contrasting sorghum lines in a harsh environment. Aust J Plant Physiol 17: 91–105Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Garrity DP, Sullivan CY and Watts DG (1984) Changes in grain sorghum stomatal and photosynthetic response to moisture stress across growth stages. Crop Sci 24: 441–446Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Garrity DP, Vidal ET and O'Toole JC (1986) Manipulating panicle transpiration resistance to increase spikelet fertility during flowering stage water stress. Crop Sci 26: 789–795Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Grantz DA (1990) Plant response to atmospheric humidity. Plant Cell and Environ 13: 667–679Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Gupta AS and Berkowitz GA (1987) Osmotic adjustment, symplast volume, and nonstomatally mediated water stress inhibition of photosynthesis in wheat. Plant Physiol 85: 1040–1047Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Hall AE, Richards RA, Condon AG, Wright GC and Farquhar GD (1994) Carbon isotope discrimination and plant breeding Plant Breed. Rev 12: 81–113Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Hamblin J (1993) The ideotype concept: usefull or outdated? Internat. Crop Sci I, Crop Sci Soc Am, Madison, pp 589–597Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Havaux M (1992) Stress tolerance of photosystem-II in vivo — antagonistic effects of water, heat, and photoinhibition stresses Plant Physiol 100: 424–432Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Hendrix JH, Linden JC, Smith DH, Ross CW and Park IK (1986) Relationship of pre-anthesis fructan metabolism to grain numbers in winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Aust J Plant Physiol 13: 391–398Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Henson IE and Mahalakshmi V (1985) Evidence for panicle control of stomatal behaviour in water-stressed plants of pearl millet. Field Crops Res 11: 281–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Johnson DA and Asay KH (1993) Viewpoint — selection for improved drought response in cool-season grasses. J Range Manage 46: 194–202Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Kahn TL, Fender SR, Bray EA and Oconnell MA (1993) Characterization of expression of drought and abscisic acid-regulated tomato genes in the drought-resistant species Lycopersicon-pennellii. Plant Physiol 103: 597–605PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    King RW and Evans LT (1977) Inhibition of flowering in Lolium temulentum by water stress: a role for abscisic acid. Aust J Plant Physiol 4: 225–233Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Koshkin EI and Tararina VV (1990) Differences in source-sink ratios in wheat and their relationship to grain yield and content of abscisic acid. Plant Physiol Biochem 28: 609–616Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Kriedemann PE (1986) Stomatal and photosynthetic limitations to leaf growth. Aust J Plant Physiol 13: 15–31Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Leuning R, Condon AG, Dunin FX, Zegelin S and Denmead OT (1994) Rainfall interception and evaporation from soil below a wheat canopy. Agr Forest Meteorol 67: 221–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Lopezcastaneda C, Richards RA and Farquhar GD (1995) Variation in early vigor between wheat and barley. Crop Sci 35: 472–479Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Lu ZM, Radin JW, Turcotte EL, Percy R and Zeiger E (1994) High yields in advanced lines of pima cotton are associated with higher stomatal conductance, reduced leaf area and lower leaf temperature Physiol. Plant 92: 266–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Mahalakshmi V, Alargarswamy G and Bidinger FR (1983) An association between flowering and reduced stomatal sensitivity to water stress in pearl millet (Pennisetum americanum (L.) Leeke. Ann Bot 52: 641–648Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Malik RS, Dhankar JS and Turner NC (1979) Influence of soil water deficits on root growth of cotton seedlings. Plant and Soil 53: 109–112Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Martin JH (1930) The comparative drought resistance of sorghum and corn. Agron J 22: 993–1003Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    McGowan M, Blanch P, Gregory PJ and Haycock D (1984) Water relations of winter wheat. 5. The root system and osmotic adjustment in relation to crop evaporation. J Agric Sci 102: 415–425Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Meyer G, Scmitt JM and Bohnert HJ (1990) Direct screening of a small genome: estimation of the magnitude of plant gene expression changes during adaptation to high salt. Mol and General Genet 224: 347–356Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Mian MAR and Nafziger ED (1994) Seed size and water potential effects on germination and seedling growth of winter wheat. Crop Sci 34: 169–171Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Mita SK and Suzukifujii NK (1995) Sugar-inducible expression of a gene for beta-amylase in Arabidopsis thaliana Plant Physiol 107: 895–904PubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Morgan JM (1977) Changes in diffusive conductance and water potential of wheat plants befor and after anthesis. Aust J Plant Physiol 4: 75–86Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Morgan JM (1983) Osmoregulation as a selection criterion for drought tolerance in wheat. Aust J Agric Res 34: 607–613Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Morgan JM (1992) Osmotic components and properties associated with genotypic differences in osmoregulation in wheat. Aust J Plant Physiol 19: 67–76Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Morgan JM (1995) Growth and yield of wheat lines with differing osmoregulative capacity at high soil water deficit in seasons of varying evaporative demand. Field Crops Res 40: 143–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. 64.
    Morgan JM and Condon AG (1986) Water use, grain yield and osmoregulation in wheat. Aust J Plant Physiol 13: 523–532Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Morgan JM, Rodriguezmaribona B and Knights EJ (1991) Adaptation to water-deficit in chickpea breeding lines by osmoregulation—relationship to grain yields in the field. Field Crops Res 27: 61–70Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Nooden LD and Letham DS (1993) Cytokinin metabolism and signalling in the soybean plant. Aust J Plant Physiol 20: 639–653Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Oosterhuis DM and Cartwright PM (1983) Spike dIfferentiation and floret survival in spring wheat as affected by water stress and photoperiod. Crop Sci 23: 711–717Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Peacock JM, Miller WB, Matsuda K and Robinson DL (1990) Role of heat girdling in early seedling death of sorghum. Crop Sci 30: 138–143Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Pinter PJ, Zipoli G, Reginato RJ, Jackson RD, Idso SB and Hohman JP (1990) Canopy temperature as an indicator of differential water use and yield performance among wheat cultivars. Agric Water Manag 18: 35–48Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Quarrie SA (1993) Understanding plant responses to stress and breeding improved stress resistance—the generation gap. In: Close TJ and Bray EA (eds) Plant Responses to Cellular Dehydration During Environmental Stress. Current topics in Plant Physiology. Am Soc of Plant Physiol Series 10: 224–245Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Read JJ, Asay KH and Johnson DA (1993) Divergent selection for carbon isotope discrimination in crested wheatgrass. Can J Plant Sci 73: 1027–1035Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Rees D, Sayre K, Acevedo E, Nava Sanchez T, Lu Z, Zeiger E and Limon A (1993) Canopy temperatures of wheat: relationships with yield and potential as a technique for early generation selection. Wheat Special Rep 10, CIMMYT, MexicoGoogle Scholar
  73. 73.
    Reynolds MP, Balota M, Delgado MIB, Amani I and Fischer RA (1994) Physiological and morphological traits associated with spring wheat yield under hot, irrigated conditions. Aust. J. Plant Physiol 21: 717–730Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    Richards RA (1992) Increasing salinity tolerance of grain crops—is it worthwhile. Plant and Soil 146: 89–98Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    Rodriguezmaribona B, Tenorio JL, Conde JR and Ayerbe L (1992) Correlation between yield and osmotic adjustment of peas (Pisum sativum L.) under drought stress. Field Crops Res 29: 15–22Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    Santamaria JM, Ludlow MM and Fukai S (1990) Contribution of osmotic adjustment to grain yield in Sorghum-bicolor (L) Moench under water-limited conditions. 1. Water stress before anthesis. Aust J Agric Res 41: 51–65Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Schnyder H (1993) The role of carbohydrate storage and redistribution in the source-sink relations of wheat and barley during grain filling—a review. New Phytol 123: 233–245Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    Schussler JR and Westgate ME (1994) Increasing assimilate reserves does not prevent kernel abortion at low water potential in maize. Crop Sci 34: 1569–1576Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    Sedgley RH (1991) An appraisal of the Donald ideotype after 21 years. Field Crops Res 26: 93–112Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    Seemann JR and Sharkey TD (1987) The effect of abscisic acid and other inhibitors on photosynthetic capacity and the biochemistry of CO2 assimilation. Plant Physiol 84: 696–700Google Scholar
  81. 81.
    Seemann JR, Downton WJS and Berry JA (1986) Temperature and leaf osmotic potential as factors in the acclimation of photosynthesis to high temp. in desert plants. Plant Physiol 80: 926–930Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    Sharp RE (1990) Comparative sensitivity of root and shoot growth and physiology to low water potentials. Importance of root to shoot communication in the responses to environmental stress. British Soc Plant Growth Regulation, Oxford, Mon 21: 29–44Google Scholar
  83. 83.
    Shimshi D and Ephrat J (1975) Stomatal behavior of wheat cultivars in relation to their transpiration, photosynthesis and yield. Agron J 67: 326–329Google Scholar
  84. 84.
    Sinclair TR and Ludlow MM (1986) Influence of soil water supply on the plant water balance of four tropical grain legumes. Aust J Plant Physiol 13: 329–341Google Scholar
  85. 85.
    Smucker AJM and Aiken RM (1992) Dynamic root responses to water deficit. Soil Sci 154: 281–289Google Scholar
  86. 86.
    Snapp SS and Shennan C (1992) Effects of salinity on root growth and death dynamics of tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. New Phytol 121: 71–79Google Scholar
  87. 87.
    Stewart GR (1989) Desiccation injury, anhydrobiosis and survival. 1989. In: Jones HG, Flowers TJ and Jones MB (eds) Plants Under Stress, pp 115–130. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  88. 88.
    Stockman YM, Fischer RA and Brittain EG (1983) Assimilate supply and floret development within the spike of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Aust J Plant Physiol 10: 585–594Google Scholar
  89. 89.
    Tangpremsri T, Fukai S, Fischer KS and Henzell RG (1991) Genotypic variation in osmotic adjustment in grain sorghum. 2. Relation with some growth attributes. Aust J Agric Res 42: 759–767Google Scholar
  90. 90.
    Tetteroo FAA, Peters AHL, Hoekstra FA, Vanderplas LHW and Hagendoorn MJM (1995) ABA reduces respiration and sugar metabolism in developing carrot (Daucus carota L.) embryoids. J Plant Physiol 145: 477–482Google Scholar
  91. 91.
    Trewavas AJ and Jones HG (1991) An assessment of the role of ABA in plant development. In: Davis WJ and Jones HG (eds) Abscisic Acid Physiology and Biochemistry, pp 169–188. Bios Sci Publ Oxford UKGoogle Scholar
  92. 92.
    Turner NC, O'Toole JC, Cruz RT, Yambao EB, Ahmad S, Namuco OS and Dingkhun M (1986) Response of seven diverse rice cultivars to water deficits. II. Osmotic adjustment, leaf elasticity, leaf extension, leaf death, stomatal conductance and photosynthesis. Field Crops Res 13: 273–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. 93.
    Waters SP, Martin P and Lee BT (1984) The influence of sucrose and abscisic acid on the determination of grain number in wheat. J Exp Bot 35: 829–840Google Scholar
  94. 94.
    Westgate ME and Boyer JS (1985) Osmotic adjustment and the inhibition of leaf root stem and silk growth at low water potentials in maize. Planta 164: 540–549Google Scholar
  95. 95.
    White RH, Engelke MC, Morton SJ and Ruemmele BA (1992) Competitive turgor maintenance in tall fescue. Crop Sci 32: 251–256Google Scholar
  96. 96.
    Wright GC and Smith RCG (1983) Differences between two sorghum genotypes in adaptation to drought stress. II. Root water uptake and water use. Aust J Agric Res 34: 627–636Google Scholar
  97. 97.
    Zinselmeier C, Westgate ME and Jones RJ (1995) Kernel set at low water potential does not vary with source/sink ratio in maize. Crop Sci 35: 158–163Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Blum
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Field CropsThe Volcani CenterBet DaganIsrael

Personalised recommendations