For agricultural crops, climate-related natural disasters are the leading source of risk and uncertainty. One such climate-mediated event is drought, a situation where the amount of rainfall is substantially below average for a particular area. Since drought patterns are often unpredictable, farmers have difficulty predicting yields and famines can occur in years when water supplies are inadequate. In many countries, drought is a major contributor to food insecurity and poverty.
What is drought tolerance?
Drought tolerance refers to the degree to which a plant is adapted to dry or drought conditions. Around the world, plant breeders have been working for decades to produce varieties of drought-tolerant agricultural crops. By enhancing the genetic tolerance of crops to drought stress, farmers will be more successful in years when moisture is limited, particularly in areas with annual water stress. This would result in more consistent levels of food production, as yields would be improved even under water limiting conditions.
Advances in drought tolerance
Today, scientists are targeting several large acreage crops and utilizing new technologies, including genetic engineering, to produce crop varieties that can maintain consistent yields in years when water is limiting.