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Drought-resistant cereals: impact on water sustainability and nutritional quality

Thomas, W. T. B.
Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2015 v.74 no.3 pp. 191-197
crops, cultivars, drought, drought tolerance, gene expression, gene expression regulation, genes, genetically modified organisms, germplasm, grain quality, heat, heat stress, latitude, marker-assisted selection, meteorological data, models, nutritive value, phenotype, protein content, starch, surveys, temperature, water stress, wheat, United Kingdom
This review uses production and climate data to examine global and local production trends that can be related to events such as drought. UK grain quality data is also available and provides an overview of trends in protein content. Literature surveys show a consistent reduction in grain size due to the effects of temperature and/or drought. A review of gene expression studies showed that most genes involved in starch synthesis are down regulated under heat stress. Net protein production is also reduced under heat and/or drought stress but apparently to a lesser degree as the reduction in grain mass is larger, resulting in an increase in protein concentration. Modelling has suggested that adaptation could be achieved by moving production to more extreme latitudes but other research suggests that simply transferring germplasm from one region to another is unlikely to be successful. Another review has identified drought tolerance phenotypes that could be used to breed more drought tolerant crops. At the time of the review, the authors concluded that phenotypic selection was generally preferable to forms of marker-assisted breeding and have used the approach to produce drought tolerant wheat cultivars. Transgenic approaches have also been shown to improve drought tolerance under controlled environment conditions but there are no results to show how well these results translate into improved crop performance under field conditions. The recent advances in genomic data and detecting marker–trait associations suggest that marker-assisted breeding will play a much more important role in breeding drought tolerant cereals in the future.