Breeding banana (Musa spp.) for drought tolerance: A review

Drought is a major abiotic stress affecting banana production worldwide, leading to yield losses of up to 65%. Consequently, numerous efforts to understand and mitigate drought effects that include developing tolerant crop varieties are ongoing in several banana breeding programmes. The breeding efforts, however, have been greatly slowed down by inherent banana problems (polyploidy and male or female sterility) and complexity of drought tolerance (reportedly controlled by several genes). This review summarizes the pertinent research findings on water requirements of banana for its proper growth and productivity, symptoms of drought‐sensitive varieties and field management strategies to cope with drought stress. The coping strategies deployed by resistant cultivars include high assimilation rates and water retention capacity as well as minor losses in leaf area and gaseous exchange. Reduced bunch weight, leaf chlorosis, wilting and strangled birth are underlined to be directly associated with drought susceptibility. Integration of conventional, molecular breeding and biotechnological tools as well as exploitation of the existing banana genetic diversity presents a huge opportunity for successful banana improvement.