Rice occupies a pre-eminent position as a food crop in the world. Its production, however,
entails up to 3000 liters of water per kilogram of grain produced. Such high demand makes
rice prone to drought easily. Sustainable rice cultivation with limited water resources requires the
deployment of a suitable strategy for better water use efficiency and improved drought tolerance.
Several drought-related genes have been evaluated in rice for their mode of action in conferring
drought tolerance. Manipulation of components of abscisic acid signal transduction, stomatal density,
deposition of cuticular wax, and protein modification pathways are emerging as priority targets.
Gene reprogramming by microRNAs is also being explored to achieve drought tolerance. Genetically
dissected Quantitative Trait Loci (QTLs) and their constituent genes are being deployed to develop
drought-tolerant rice varieties. Progressive research and challenges include a better understanding
of crucial components of drought response and search for new targets and the deployment
of improved varieties in the field.
Keywords: Drought, microRNAs, molecular breeding, rice, transgenics, water-deficit.
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