Attempting Wheat Production in Marginal Areas

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Ministry of Agriculture
Seventy percent of Kenya's total land area of 57 million hectares is considered to be semi-arid. Population pressure and land holding patterns have forced people to move onto "marginal" areas where rainfall is unreliable and poorly distributed, and the danger of drought and crop failure is great. At the same time Kenya's wheat requirements continue to rise and domestic production fall further and further behind consumer needs and demands. Drought and heat stress are major environmental factors reducing grain production of rainfed wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in semi-arid or marginal areas, researchers should identify bread wheats with improved adaptation to hot, dry environments. Nearly all stages of plant growth from seedling to maturity are effected by drought stress. Thence, complete drought resistance cannot yet be defined precisely. Various indices of drought resistance have been studied by various workers in the past. This article will review the approach to breeding for drought resistance and some of the physiological, biochemical and morphological indices that have been used as indicators of drought tolerance. Relevance and use of these indicators in helping to design meaningful breeding procedures and screening methods of a practical nature will be discussed.