Drought Tolerance in Maize

  • Jean-Marcel Ribaut
  • Javier Betran
  • Philippe Monneveux
  • Tim Setter


Drought is the single most common cause of severe crop production shortage in developing countries, and global warming is predicted to further exacerbate drought's impact. This chapter describes how to best evaluate segregating germplasm under water-limited conditions, what are the secondary traits to be included in the selection and why is it important to identify key regulatory genes involved in selected metabolic pathways and signaling. The chapter also summarizes the current understanding of the genetic basis for drought tolerance. From this review, one can project that sustained progress in breeding for drought tolerance in maize is likely to entail the selection of plants with a reduced leaf area (especially in the upper part of the plant), short thick stems, small tassels, erect leaves, delayed senescence, smaller root biomass, and a deep root system with little lateral root branching. Tolerant genotypes are also expected to have robust spikelet and kernel growth at the cell-division and expansion-growth phases, with good osmotic adjustment to assist in cell retention of water during drought. In this way, root and ear growth is not completely inhibited, and leaf survival is enhanced despite limited water. Extensive genetic dissections of drought tolerance traits have been carried out in maize over the last decade, yielding numerous QTL involved in the determination of morphological traits and regularoty pathways. A better understanding of the physiological mechanisms and the genetic basis of the response of maize to drought should make it increasingly feasible and efficient to stack favorable alleles at key genes, so as to select for genotypes that will develop phenotypes described above. The final section of this chapter focuses on the genetic gains achieved in maize via an interdisciplinary approach, and includes an exploration of new strategies combining marker-assisted breeding and phenotyping selection to accelerate drought tolerance breeding in maize.


Drought Stress Drought Tolerance Harvest Index Osmotic Adjustment Genetic Gain 
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.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Marcel Ribaut
  • Javier Betran
  • Philippe Monneveux
  • Tim Setter

There are no affiliations available

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