Drought Resistance and Its Improvement



Plant breeding has been successful in developing drought resistant crop cultivars. However the traditional breeding method by using yield as a selection index and performing multi-environmental yield trials has been costly and slow. Plant physiology is now incorporated into the breeding program by using physiological selection criteria relevant to the designated plant ideotype and subsequent plant performance in the target stress environment. Genomics offer a great potential for the improvement of breeding efficiency towards water limited environments. There are still inherent problems in deploying marker assisted selection and transgenic technology into breeding program for drought resistance. The potential of genomics can be realized only when it will be well synchronized with plant breeding concept, theory and methods.

It has often been voiced and published that “drought resistance” is complex and therefore its improvement is difficult. This chapter aims to diffuse some of these beliefs and demonstrate that the issue is not as complex as seen by the novice or as seen from the “gene discovery” platform.

Breeding for drought resistance can basically follow an analogy of breeding for disease resistance in terms of concept and design (with few exceptions). Drought resistance is approached in terms of its components, namely dehydration avoidance, dehydration tolerance and drought escape. The most widespread and effective mechanism of drought resistance in crop plants is dehydration avoidance, which is the ability of the plant to maintain its hydration. It is controlled by plant constitutive traits and plant adaptive traits. Dehydration tolerance which is the ability to function in a dehydrated state is rare but can sometimes be important. It is shown that when stress physiology, plant genetics and knowledge of the target environment are combined it is possible to design an appropriate plant ideotype to be used as guide in breeding for the specific water limited environment.



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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tel AvivIsrael

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