Drought and flooding are environmental extremes and major threats to crop production. Water uptake is achieved by plant roots which have to explore new soil spaces to alleviate water deficit during drought or to cope with water excess during flooding. Adaptation of the root system architecture helps plants cope with such extreme conditions and is crucial for plant health and survival. While for dicot plants the well studied model plant Arabidopsis thaliana has provided insight into the genetic and molecular regulation of the root system, less information is available for monocot species, which include the agronomically important cereal crops. Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is a semi-aquatic monocot plant that develops strong tolerance to flooding. Flooding tolerance of rice is closely linked to its adaptive root system. The functional root system of rice is mainly composed of crown roots and is shifted to nodal adventitious roots during flooding which allows rice to maintain oxygen supply to the roots and to survive longer periods of partial submergence as compared with other crops. Likewise, a number of drought-tolerance traits of rice are the result of an altered root system architecture. Hence, the structure of the root system adapts to, both, flooding and drought. Understanding the regulatory mechanisms that control root system adaptation to extreme environments is a key task for scientists to accelerate the breeding efforts for stress-tolerant crops. This review summarizes recently identified genes and molecular mechanisms that regulate root system architecture in rice in response to drought and flooding.

In: Israel Journal of Plant Sciences