Mechanisms of Drought Resistance
There are four different mechanisms which help in survival of plants under moisture deficit conditions. There are:
1) Drought escape.
2) Drought avoidance.
3) Drought tolerance.
4) Drought resistance.
The last one refers to true drought resistance. These are briefly described below:
1. Drought Escape
The simplest way of survival under drought conditions is to escape drought. Generally, drought occurs either in the mid or late-crop season. Drought escape is most common in case of plants grown in desert regions. They complete their life cycles in 4 to 6 weeks. Drought escape also plays an important role in some crop plants. For Example, yields of early varieties of wheat, sorghum, maize, and rice arc less affected by severe drought than late maturing ones. All these crops have determinate growth habit. In spring wheat, late maturing varieties give higher yield than early types especially when drought occurs early in the season and is over before anthesis.
2. Drought Avoidance
Drought avoidance refers to ability of the plant to maintain a favourable internal water balance under moisture stress. In other words, plants which avoid drought retain high water contents in their tissues. Drought avoidance can permit a longer growth period in the crop through reduced water use or increased water uptake. However, drought avoidance leads to reduction in photosynthesis and thereby reduction in the growth of aerial parts. It leads to increase in root development and therefore, is more important than drought tolerance. In cereals, drought avoidance operates during vegetative phase, while tolerance operates during, reproductive phase. Drought avoidance mechanisms are of two types. First those which reduce water loss through transpiration. Such features include stomatal characteristics and shape, size and orientation of leaves. The second, those which maintain water uptake during drought period.
3. Drought Tolerance
The ability of crop plants to withstand low tissue water content is referred to as drought tolerance. Drought tolerance is more desirable because the crop can produce more yield at lower water potential. In cereals, drought tolerance generally operates during reproductive phase. Tolerant cultivars exhibit better germination, seedling growth and photosynthesis. In Sorghum, a drought resistant line exhibited higher photosynthetic rate at leaf water potential than a less drought resistant line. Drought tolerance differs from drought avoidance in several aspects.
4. Drought Resistance
Drought resistance is the sum of drought avoidance and drought tolerance. In other words, drought resistance refers to the ability of crop plants to give good yield under moisture deficit conditions. Drought resistance is measured in terms of various mechanisms associated’; with drought tolerance and yield under soil moisture deficit. In winter wheat, both avoidance and tolerance features are important for drought resistance.