There is a strong interaction between irrigation and crop improvement, irrigation creating new opportunities and challenges for plant breeders while depending on their progress for its full benefits to be realized. In temperate environments the primary emphasis is on raising yield potential, especially as irrigation enhances the use of agrichemical inputs. Efficiency of water and energy use through the modification of physiological processes and of sensitivity to stress at various stages of the life cycle is also sought. In tropical environments, breeding for greater yield potential and more comprehensive pest and disease resistance are still important. However, shortening the length of the life cycle, reducing its sensitivity to seasonal signals and increasing yield per day may be more important than raising yield per crop because of the scope for multiple cropping made possible by irrigation in the tropics in the absence of contraints by low temperatures.