Any trait or trait-related allele can confer drought tolerance: just design the right drought scenario

J Exp Bot. 2012 Jan;63(1):25-31. doi: 10.1093/jxb/err269. Epub 2011 Sep 30.


Most traits associated with drought tolerance have a dual effect, positive in very severe scenarios and negative in milder scenarios, or the opposite trend. Their effects also depend on other climatic conditions such as evaporative demand or light, and on management practices. This is the case for processes associated with cell protection and with avoidance, but also for the maintenance of growth or photosynthesis, high water use efficiency, large root systems or reduced abortion rate under water deficit. Therefore, spectacular results obtained in one drought scenario may have a limited interest for improving food security in other geographical areas with water scarcity. The most relevant questions on drought tolerance are probably, 'Does a given allele confer a positive effect on yield in an appreciable proportion of years/scenarios in a given area or target population of environment (TPE)?'; 'In a given site or TPE, what is the trade-off between risk avoidance and maintained performance?'; and 'Will a given allele or trait have an increasingly positive effect with climate change?' Considerable progress has already occurred in drought tolerance. Nevertheless, explicitly associating traits for tolerance to drought scenarios may have profound consequences on the genetic strategies, with a necessary involvement of modelling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Alleles*
  • Droughts*
  • Food Supply*
  • Security Measures*