Plant tolerance to high temperature in a changing environment: scientific fundamentals and production of heat stress-tolerant crops

Front Plant Sci. 2013 Jul 31;4:273. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2013.00273. eCollection 2013.


Global warming is predicted to have a general negative effect on plant growth due to the damaging effect of high temperatures on plant development. The increasing threat of climatological extremes including very high temperatures might lead to catastrophic loss of crop productivity and result in wide spread famine. In this review, we assess the impact of global climate change on the agricultural crop production. There is a differential effect of climate change both in terms of geographic location and the crops that will likely show the most extreme reductions in yield as a result of expected extreme fluctuations in temperature and global warming in general. High temperature stress has a wide range of effects on plants in terms of physiology, biochemistry and gene regulation pathways. However, strategies exist to crop improvement for heat stress tolerance. In this review, we present recent advances of research on all these levels of investigation and focus on potential leads that may help to understand more fully the mechanisms that make plants tolerant or susceptible to heat stress. Finally, we review possible procedures and methods which could lead to the generation of new varieties with sustainable yield production, in a world likely to be challenged both by increasing population, higher average temperatures and larger temperature fluctuations.

Keywords: food security; global warming; heat tolerance; productivity; yield.