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W ater is aptly described as 'Mother of Life'.

It is one of

the most common and important substances on the earth's surface.

Having evolved in a medium of water, life of all forms, including plants

is inextricably dependent on water for function and survival. It is the

most abundant compound in living organisms, accounting for 80-90%

of the fresh weight of most herbaceous plant parts and more than 50%

of the fresh weight of woody plants and animal tissues. The essential

roles of water in the plant are endless, ranging from being reactants,

to serving as medium for the organisation of metabolites and

stabilization of biomembranes, to being the inflating agent in

maintaining structure rigidity. Water is one of the major environmental

factor which control plant productivity and determine distribution of

species. However, water is not uniformly and abundantly available at

all times and places for sustaining optimal growth of plant species.

Agriculture still accounts for at least 70% of the world’s total water usage

(Inocencio et al., 2003). At present, around 18% of the global farmland is

irrigated (more than 240 million hectares) and up to 40% of the global food

supply is produced on this land (Somerville and Briscoe, 2001). With

increasing aridity and growing population, water will become an even

scare commodity in the near future use. Therefore understanding the

plant tolerance to drought is a fundamental research to meet food

demands of increasing population and to cope up with drastic climatic


Oil seeds

Oil seeds occupy an important place in the agricultural

economy of India, constituting the principal commercial crop and the

second major agricultural crop, next to food grains. They account for

about 10% of the cultivated area and value of all agricultural produce.

There are nine cultivated oil seed crops, namely groundnut, rape seed,

mustard, sesame, safflower, niger, soybean and sun flower forming the

edible group and linseed and castor comprising the non-edible group.

Groundnut is the single largest source of edible oils in India and

constitutes roughly about 50% of the total oil production. Oil seed

crops provide edible oils for human diet and also serve as an important

raw material for manufacturing soap, paints and varnishes, hair oils,

lubricants, textile auxiliaries, pharmaceuticals and several other

industrial products. Oil cakes are used as animal feed and manure.

90% of oil seed crops are grown under rainfed conditions

and less than 10% receive irrigation. As a result, oil seed area,

production and productivity are subjected to vagaries of nature every

year in some part or the other. Apart from the above constraint, lack

of quality seed, improved farm implements, water management,

improper seed storage limit the desired growth level of these crops.

Groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.), a member of leguminosae is

one of the principle economic crops of the world ranking 13th among the food

crops and 4th most important oil seed crop of the world. Groundnut is

essentially a tropical plant and requires long and warm growing

season. It is essentially grown under rainfed condition during kharif

and to a small extent under irrigated in rabi. It requires 50 cm to 125

cm of well distributed rainfall (Reddi, 1988). The optimum temperature

for vegetative growth period is between 27°C to 30°C depending upon

the cultivar (Fortanier, 1957; De Beer, 1963). Reproductive growth is

maximum between 24°C to 27°C. Maximum rate of growth of pods is

between 30°C to 34°C (Dreyer, 1980). Once established, groundnut is

moderately tolerant to drought, and to some extent it also tolerates

flooding. The productivity of groundnut is higher in soils with Ph

between 6.0-6.5. The crop comes well on sandy loamy soils. It is

primarily grown for oil purpose and is used for cooking. It contains

about 40 to 50% of oil and 22 to 26% of protein depending on the type

and variety. Oil cake can also be used as organic manure or as animal

feed and contains 7.8% of nitrogen.

Groundnut is an important food legumes in India. It is cultivated

around the world in tropical, sub-tropical and warm temperate climates. It is

grown in more than 100 countries on about 25.2 million hectares with total

production of 36 million tones and an average productivity of 1.3 tonnes per

hectare.(FAO, 2007). India and China are the largest producers of this crop.

India ranks first in area (8.4 million hectares) and production (8.2 million tonnes),
followed by China (3.41 million hectares area; 7.57 million tonnes production).

While China records the highest productivity of the crop in the region (2.219

tonnes per hectare), the productivity of India is only in 0.976 tonnes per hectare

In India, it is mainly grown in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra

and Karnataka. Two of these states (Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat ) account for

more than half of the cultivated area. Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat states share

about 28 and 24 percent of the total groundnut area respectively in the country.

Andhra Pradesh, occupies the first place in area of about 18.8 lakh

hectares, and production of about 12 lakh tonnes (ICRISAT, 2007) The major

groundnut growing districts are Anantapur, Chittoor, Kurnool, Cuddapah

(together called Rayalaseema region), Mahaboobnagar, Nalgonda (in the

Telangana region), Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram (in Coastal

Andhra Pradesh). Thus about 60% of the area and 72% of the proudction of

groundnut is confined to Rayalaseema region.

Groundnut - Anantapur

In Andhra Pradesh, Anantapur district stands first both in

cultivated area (8 lakh hectares) and in production (6.4 lakh metric

tones). However, the productivity is 800 kg per hectare only.

Anantapur has the distinction of having the largest area under the

groundnut in single district, throughout the world. In Anantapur district,

most of the famers are cultivating old varities due lack of awareness ,

non availability of improved varieties, marginal, submarginal lands with

poor fertility status and poor economic condition, resulting in low

productivity. It is mainly due to unpredictable, uneven distribution of

rainfall (521 mm, the lowest among all the districts) and prolonged dry

spells during critical growth stage as the crop is grown mainly under

rainfed condition. Despite all these factors, groundnut has over

decades proved to be the only crop that will ensure some income to

farmers in Anantapur district and play a vital role in the district's


Groundnut is commonly grown in rainfed cropping systems

where there is a high varation in the amount and distribution of rainfall

during growing seasons. (Varasol et al.,1985). This would inevitably

create drought stress during growing periods of groundnut (Jogloy et

al.,1996). Drought, a complex combination of stresses involving both

moisture stress and high temperature, is a major constraint in

groundnut production (ICRISAT,1994). While the area and production

of groundnut have been increasing in the word, however the total

productivity remained almost constant (Patel and Golakiya 1998).This

is because rainfall plays an important role in groundnut production in

many countries (Boote and Ketring 1990) Low rainfall and prolonged

dry spells during the crop growth perioid are the main reasons for low

average yields in Mynmar (Naing,1980), several parts of Africa

(Fletcher et al.,1992), northern part of China (Zeyong,1992) and in

India, (Reddy et al., 2003), Gadgil (2000) observed that the variation in

groundnut yield of Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh state arises

to a large extent from the variation in the total rainfall during growing

season. In comparison to other countries, the productivity level in

India is deplorably low because about 80% of the crop is grown under
rainfed conditions, where drought takes heavy toll apart from the yield

loss due to plethora of pests and diseases. Thus, the drought is a

major constraint in groundnut production, resulting in poor returns to

the farmer. The utilization of improved variety, application of manure

and fertilizers and better cultural practices may not satisfy the thirst

and hunger of farmers under these conditions. A highly biotic approach

to overcome this limitation, is selection of drought tolerant lines among

the existing varities and further using these lines in the improvement

programmes, is seems to be effective and economic.

Plant responses under water stress are not only

suggestive of interesting abiotic modulation of plant metabolism but

probably also signify, at least to some extent, the plant’s potential to

adjust to moisture deficit environment knowledge of such responses is

prerequisite for systematic identification and development of plant

genotypes. Understanding the mechanisms of drought tolerance in

leguminous species naturally adapted to drought, such as bean or

groundnut, can help in improve their agronomic performance

(Subbarao et al., 195; Cruz de Carvalho et al 1998; Franca et al.,

2000). Considerable research has been undertaken on the

physiological and molecular mechanisms involved in drought

adaptation (Bohnert et al., 1995). However, there is stil no

comprehensive standard system for measuring drought resistance

(Blum, 1999), especially because the physiological model approach is

not always adequate for selection because of negative correlations

between physiological traits involved in drought adaptation (Turner et

al., 2001). Only a small number of morpho-physiological traits in

peanut confer wider adaptation to stresses. Hence there is need to

identify the physiological traits responsible for improved crop

performance under drought. Genotypic variations in the magnitude of

drought induced responses in several crop plants have provided

significant information concerning their adaptability or tolerance to

water deficits. In the present investigation, therefore, an attempt is

made to understand the physiological responses of two groundnut

cultivars with differential sensitivity to water stress and to identify the

traits, which contribute for better performance during periods of water


The main objectives of the present study are

1. To study the impact of water stress on morphological,

physiological and biochemical responses of two groundnut

cultivars differing in drought tolerance

2. To correlate the physiological responses with the drought


3. To suggest a few markers/traits for rapid screening of

groundnut genotypes for drought tolerance