The art of being flexible: How to escape from shade, salt, and drought

Ronald Pierik*, Christa Testerink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental stresses, such as shading of the shoot, drought, and soil salinity, threaten plant growth, yield, and survival. Plants can alleviate the impact of these stresses through various modes of phenotypic plasticity, such as shade avoidance and halotropism. Here, we review the current state of knowledge regarding the mechanisms that control plant developmental responses to shade, salt, and drought stress. We discuss plant hormones and cellular signaling pathways that control shoot branching and elongation responses to shade and root architecture modulation in response to drought and salinity. Because belowground stresses also result in aboveground changes and vice versa, we then outline how a wider palette of plant phenotypic traits is affected by the individual stresses. Consequently, we argue for a research agenda that integrates multiple plant organs, responses, and stresses. This will generate the scientific understanding needed for future crop improvement programs aiming at crops that can maintain yields under variable and suboptimal conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-22
Number of pages18
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2014


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