Water Stress: A Challenge for the Future of Agriculture

  • A. J. Karamanos
Part of the Nato Advanced Study Institutes Series book series (NSSA, volume 22)


When analyzing the progress of agriculture in recent years we find a boom in farm yields after World War II until about 1970. This is mainly attributed to massive inputs of energy in agriculture by means of fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, and mechanization, as well as to the genetic improvement of the crops. The yields per unit farm area, however, have not increased since 1970 and, accordingly, any overall increase in crop production during this period was achieved mainly by cropping more land. In fact, more land was brought under cultivation in the arid and semiarid regions by means of large irrigation projects. No doubt there is still potential for further expansion of irrigated land. Assuming that all the current and planned development projects will be achieved, Jewitt (1966) estimates that by the end of the century the world’s irrigated area is very likely to expand by an additional 40 million to a total of 200 million hectares. However, despite these perspectives, it is important to consider that irrigation itself is by no means equivalent to an intensive and more productive agriculture, as the failure of many irrigation projects suggests (Arnon, 1972). The vast capital investments together with the continuously increasing costs of energy make the success of such plans ambiguous. It appears, therefore, that a change in the priorities of agricultural research is necessary. Future research has to point to a more intensive study of the factors which limit crop production as well as to ways of enabling the plants to utilize more effectively the available environmental resources. According to a recent joint report of the National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, the research targets in the near future must include methods of improving photosynthetic efficiency, biological nitrogen fixation, nutrient and water use efficiency, and resistance to environmental stresses (Wittwer, 1978). Obviously, the crops of the future must work more effectively than the present ones in order to meet the continuously increasing demands for food and fiber.


Water Stress Water Deficit Guard Cell Leaf Water Potential Drought Resistance 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. Karamanos
    • 1
  1. 1.The Agricultural CollegeVotanikos, AthensGreece

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