J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2022, Vol. 64 ›› Issue (2): 412-430.DOI: 10.1111/jipb.13222

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Water stress resilient cereal crops: Lessons from wild relatives

Justine M. Toulotte , Chrysoula K. Pantazopoulou, Maria Angelica Sanclemente, Laurentius A. C. J. Voesenek and Rashmi Sasidharan*   

  1. Department of Biology, Plant Ecophysiology, Institute of Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, Utrecht 3584 CH, The Netherlands

    These authors contributed equally to this work
    *Correspondence: Rashmi Sasidharan (r.sasidharan@uu.nl)
  • Received:2021-10-30 Accepted:2022-01-10 Online:2022-01-14 Published:2022-02-01

Abstract: Cereal crops are significant contributors to global diets. As climate change disrupts weather patterns and wreaks havoc on crops, the need for generating stress-resilient, high-yielding varieties is more urgent than ever. One extremely promising avenue in this regard is to exploit the tremendous genetic diversity expressed by the wild ancestors of current day crop species. These crop wild relatives thrive in a range of environments and accordingly often harbor an array of traits that allow them to do so. The identification and introgression of these traits into our staple cereal crops can lessen yield losses in stressful environments. In the last decades, a surge in extreme drought and flooding events have severely impacted cereal crop production. Climate models predict a persistence of this trend, thus reinforcing the need for research on water stress resilience. Here we review: (i) how water stress (drought and flooding) impacts crop performance; and (ii) how identification of tolerance traits and mechanisms from wild relatives of the main cereal crops, that is, rice, maize, wheat, and barley, can lead to improved survival and sustained yields in these crops under water stress conditions.

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