A genetically altered crop with a heightened tolerance to drought, which reduces the impact of dehydration on plant growth, allowing it to continue to produce when rainfall is limited. Thus helping farmers in areas with inadequate waterfall improve the yield of their crops.
The genetic determinants of water-stress tolerance in naturally drought-resistant plants are isolated and these genes are introduced into crops that are usually not drought tolerant. This gene editing is carried out, predominantly, by CRISPR. Drought triggers a wide array of physiological responses in plants and affects the activity of a large number of genes. At least four independent stress-responsive genetic regulatory pathways are known to exist in plants, forming a highly complex and redundant gene network. Two of the pathways are dependent on the hormone ABA, and two are ABA-independent. Recent research has indicated that root architecture is the most prominent characteristic for drought avoidance. This can greatly improve drought-resistance of crops by introducing or manipulating a single gene.
Drought-resistant crops allow farmers—especially smallholder farmers, who rely more heavily on rainfall to water their crops—to maintain their expected yield when there is no rainfall. Water stress is a major hindering factor for yield improvement, and possesses the greatest threat to global food security. As the climate is increasingly changing, water shortages are becoming more frequent, and this application allows crops to continue producing in times of drought and helps to maintain global food security.
Although significant progress has been made in uncovering the genetic mechanisms underlying drought tolerance, considerable challenges remain. In field conditions, crops are subjected to variable levels of multiple stresses; thus, one area of study that deserves much more attention is the response of plants to a combination of stresses. Further, though drought tolerant crops produce seeds, they lose some of their drought protection capacities so farmers are encouraged to buy new seeds, not save them from the previous harvest.