Humans cultivate more than 200 species of plants, but this chapter reviews responses of 5 important cereal crops to drought. These crops are maize (Zea mays L.), rice (Oryza sativa L.), wheat (Triticum aestivum and Triticum turgidum L. var. durum), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor [L.] Moench), and pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum [L.] R. Br), which provide the majority of food in the world. In general, farmers cultivate millet in the most drought-prone environments and sorghum where a short growing season is the greatest constraint to production. Some sorghum cultivars set grain in as short as 50-60 days (Roncoli et al., 2001). Rice is grown under a wide range of environments, from tropical to temperate zones, from deep water-flooded zones to nonflooded uplands. Rice productivity is limited mostly by water (IRRI, 2002). Drought limits, to a varying extent, the productivity of all of these crops. Although water is likely the most important manageable limit to food production worldwide, we should recognize that water management cannot be isolated from nutrient, crop, and pest management.
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