Meta-analysis of drought and heat stress combination impact on crop yield and yield components

Itay Cohen, Sara I. Zandalinas, Clayton Huck, Felix B. Fritschi, Ron Mittler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Episodes of prolonged drought coupled with heat waves (i.e. drought and heat combination) can have a devastating impact on agricultural production and crop yield. It is therefore not surprising that improving tolerance to drought and heat combination has been a major goal for breeders and biotech companies. Although much is known about the physiological and molecular responses of vegetative tissues to a combination of drought and heat stress, less is known about the impact of this stress combination on yield and different yield components. Here, we used a meta-analysis approach to synthesize results from over 120 published case studies of crop responses to combined drought and heat stress. Our findings reveal that drought and heat stress combination significantly impacts yield by decreasing harvest index, shortening the life cycle of crops, and altering seed number, size and composition. Furthermore, these impacts are more severe when the stress combination is applied during the reproductive stage of plants. We further identify differences in how legumes and cereals respond to the stress combination and reveal that utilizing C3 or C4 metabolism may not provide an advantage to plants during stress combinations. Taken together our study highlights a need to focus future studies, as well as breeding efforts, on crop responses to drought and heat combination at the reproductive stage of different crop species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-76
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiologia Plantarum
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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