Climate change leading to increased periods of low water availability as well as increasing demands for food in the coming years makes breeding for drought tolerant crops a high priority. Plants have developed diverse strategies and mechanisms to survive drought stress. However, most of these represent drought escape or avoidance strategies like early flowering or low stomatal conductance that are not applicable in breeding for crops with high yields under drought conditions. Even though a great deal of research is ongoing, especially in cereals, in this regard, not all mechanisms involved in drought tolerance are yet understood. The identification of candidate genes for drought tolerance that have a high potential to be used for breeding drought tolerant crops represents a challenge. Breeding for drought tolerant crops has to focus on acceptable yields under water-limited conditions and not on survival. However, as more and more knowledge about the complex networks and the cross talk during drought is available, more options are revealed. In addition, it has to be considered that conditioning a crop for drought tolerance might require the production of metabolites and might cost the plants energy and resources that cannot be used in terms of yield. Recent research indicates that yield penalty exists and efficient breeding for drought tolerant crops with acceptable yields under well-watered and drought conditions might require uncoupling yield penalty from drought tolerance.
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