Reproductive development of plants, from meiosis to seed set, is highly vulnerable to water deficit. Two peaks of high sensitivity are encountered during this period. The first one occurs during meiosis in reproductive cells, and is common to all species studied. Water deficit at this stage causes pollen sterility, but usually affects female fertility only when the stress is severe. Pollen sterility does not result from a desiccation of the reproductive organs, but is an indirect consequence of water deficit in the vegetative parts, and may be mediated by a transportable sporocidal signal. The second peak of sensitivity occurs during flowering, and is conspicuous in rice, maize and some dicots. Depending on species, stress during this period can cause loss of pollen fertility, spikelet death or abortion of newly formed seed. These injuries, unlike those caused by the meiotic-stage stress, are associated with a decline in the water status of the reproductive structures. Changes in carbohydrate availability and metabolism appear to be involved in the effects of stress at both these stages.