The Physiological Basis of Drought Tolerance in Crop Plants: A Scenario-Dependent Probabilistic Approach

Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2018 Apr 29;69:733-759. doi: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-042817-040218. Epub 2018 Mar 19.


Drought tolerance involves mechanisms operating at different spatial and temporal scales, from rapid stomatal closure to maintenance of crop yield. We review how short-term mechanisms are controlled for stabilizing shoot water potential and how long-term processes have been constrained by evolution or breeding to fit into acclimation strategies for specific drought scenarios. These short- or long-term feedback processes participate in trade-offs between carbon accumulation and the risk of deleterious soil water depletion. Corresponding traits and alleles may therefore have positive or negative effects on crop yield depending on drought scenarios. We propose an approach that analyzes the genetic architecture of traits in phenotyping platforms and of yield in tens of field experiments. A combination of modeling and genomic prediction is then used to estimate the comparative interests of combinations of alleles depending on drought scenarios. Hence, drought tolerance is understood probabilistically by estimating the benefit and risk of each combination of alleles.

Keywords: drought; genomic prediction; modeling; phenomics; transpiration; yield.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Crops, Agricultural / genetics
  • Crops, Agricultural / physiology*
  • Droughts*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Water / physiology


  • Water