Plant Responses to Drought Stress

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Drought Stress in Plants: An Overview

  • M. FarooqAffiliated withInstitute of Plant Nutrition, Justus-Liebig-UniversityDepartment of Agronomy, University of AgricultureThe UWA Institute of Agriculture, The University of Western Australia Email author 
  • , M. HussainAffiliated withDepartment of Agronomy, Bahauddin Zakariya UniversityDepartment of Crop Science and Biotechnology, Dankook University
  • , Abdul WahidAffiliated withDepartment of Botany, University of Agriculture
  • , K. H. M. SiddiqueAffiliated withThe UWA Institute of Agriculture, The University of Western AustraliaCollege of Food and Agricultural Sciences, King Saud University

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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.