Attention has been given in recent literature to crop breeding for heat tolerance, but, as with certain other physiological traits, such as photosynthetic efficiency, practical gain has lagged. The question remains as to whether heat tolerance can be improved, and, if so, if it can most efficiently be improved by a holistic approach, as in breeding for yield following timely high temperature levels in the field environment, or whether the breeding for heat (and drought) tolerance components in the laboratory would be feasible. At issue is the identification and repeatability of key plant responses, such as cell membrane damage, heat shock protein formation, increased ethylene output and other responses, and the relevance, effectiveness and cost of screening for such traits. Results from our laboratory, and the work of others, will be reviewed.
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