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Plant Sci. 2014 Dec;229:247-261. doi: 10.1016/j.plantsci.2014.10.002. Epub 2014 Oct 18.

To grow or not to grow: a stressful decision for plants.

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CSIRO, Agriculture Flagship, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia. Electronic address:


Progress in improving abiotic stress tolerance of crop plants using classic breeding and selection approaches has been slow. This has generally been blamed on the lack of reliable traits and phenotyping methods for stress tolerance. In crops, abiotic stress tolerance is most often measured in terms of yield-capacity under adverse weather conditions. "Yield" is a complex trait and is determined by growth and developmental processes which are controlled by environmental signals throughout the life cycle of the plant. The use of model systems has allowed us to gradually unravel how plants grow and develop, but our understanding of the flexibility and opportunistic nature of plant development and its capacity to adapt growth to environmental cues is still evolving. There is genetic variability for the capacity to maintain yield and productivity under abiotic stress conditions in crop plants such as cereals. Technological progress in various domains has made it increasingly possible to mine that genetic variability and develop a better understanding about the basic mechanism of plant growth and abiotic stress tolerance. The aim of this paper is not to give a detailed account of all current research progress, but instead to highlight some of the current research trends that may ultimately lead to strategies for stress-proofing crop species. The focus will be on abiotic stresses that are most often associated with climate change (drought, heat and cold) and those crops that are most important for human nutrition, the cereals.


Abiotic stress; Cereals; Crop yield; Hormone regulation; Plant development; Senescence

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