Effective use of water (EUW) and not water-use efficiency (WUE) is the target of crop yield improvement under drought stress

Blum, A. (2009) Effective use of water (EUW) and not water-use efficiency (WUE) is the target of crop yield improvement under drought stress. Field Crops Research , 112 (2/3). pp. 119-123.

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Water-use efficiency (WUE) is often considered an important determinant of yield under stress and even as a component of crop drought resistance. It has been used to imply that rainfed plant production can be increased per unit water used, resulting in "more crop per drop". This opinionated review argues that selection for high WUE in breeding for water-limited conditions will most likely lead, under most conditions, to reduced yield and reduced drought resistance. As long as the biochemistry of photosynthesis cannot be improved genetically, greater genotypic transpiration efficiency (TE) and WUE are driven mainly by plant traits that reduce transpiration and crop water-use, processes which are crucially important for plant production. Since biomass production is tightly linked to transpiration, breeding for maximized soil moisture capture for transpiration is the most important target for yield improvement under drought stress. Effective use of water (EUW) implies maximal soil moisture capture for transpiration which also involves reduced non-stomatal transpiration and minimal water loss by soil evaporation. Even osmotic adjustment which is a major stress adaptive trait in crop plants is recognized as enhancing soil moisture capture and transpiration. High harvest index (HI) expresses successful plant reproduction and yield in terms of reproductive functions and assimilate partitioning towards reproduction. In most rainfed environments crop water deficit develops during the reproductive growth stage thus reducing HI. EUW by way of improving plant water status helps sustain assimilate partitions and reproductive success. It is concluded that EUW is a major target for yield improvement in water-limited environments. It is not a coincidence that EUW is an inverse acronym of WUE because very often high WUE is achieved at the expense of reduced EUW.

Item Type: Article
Author Affiliation: Plantstress.com, P.O. Box 16246, Tel Aviv, Israel
Subjects: Plant Production
Crop Improvement
Divisions: Other Crops
Depositing User: Sandhya Gir
Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2010 16:58
Last Modified: 29 Dec 2010 20:11
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2009.03.009
URI: http://eprints.icrisat.ac.in/id/eprint/824

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