Drought is a multidimensional stress affecting plants at various levels of their organization. The effect of and plant response to drought at the whole plant and crop level is most complex because it reflects the integration of stress effects and responses at all underlying levels of organization over space and time. This review discusses some of the major aspects of crop response to drought stress which are relevant for plant breeding. Emphasis is given to whole plant aspects which are too often disregarded when conclusions are drawn from molecular studies towards the genetic improvement of crop drought resistance. Topics discussed are seedling emergence and establishment, plant phenology, leaf area, water deficit and assimilation, osmotic adjustment, the root and the formation of yield. The discussion is concluded with the interpretation of crop adaptation to drought conditions in its agronomic sense. Conclusions are drawn regarding plant breeding for drought-prone conditions.
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