Heat and Drought Stress

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This article was written by Matthew Clay, 2021 NC State University Summer Intern for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.

During the summer, high temperatures can result in heat and drought stress in plants. Heat stress is where the plant is unable to cool itself with transpiration and begins to wilt. This is a plant’s sign to show it is undergoing some stress. Drought contributes to wilt and stress because there is not enough water available to take up into the plant. When plants are stressed, the rate of photosynthesis and transpiration decreases to prevent further water loss. 

Without transpiration driving water and nutrients up and into the plants, nutritional issues can occur. In the soil the nutrient solution provides the plant with the Plant with drooping leavesessential nutrients it needs. Most modes of plant uptake of these nutrients are driven by the movement of water, which is why nutrient issues occur under drought stress. Adding more fertilizer will do nothing and be a waste of money because a plant will not be able to take up those extra nutrients. Also, a stressed plant may reach a permanent wilting point. When a permanent wilting point is reached, it is the point of no return, and a plant will not recover.

  There are several things as a homeowner you can do to help prevent heat and drought stress to your plants. First, choose plants that are drought resistant and can handle our hot dry summers. Second, practice water conservation methods, such as mulching plants to hold moisture and removing weeds to eliminate unwanted competition for moisture. Third, limit pruning during the summer to decrease stress to the plant. Finally, take notice of what works and what does not work for watering in order to allow for more efficient watering to prevent heat and drought stress. To learn more about heat and drought stress visit Dealing with Drought

Matthew Clay is the 2021 NC State University Summer Intern with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.