Osmotic adjustment (OA), the accumulation of solutes in higher plant cells in response to water deficits, was first reported more than four decades ago. Since then, variation in OA among genotypes/cultivars in response to drought has been reported in many crop plants, but its role in maintaining growth and yield in water-limited environments has been questioned. The role of OA in the physiological and agronomic adaptation to water stress of crops, the methods of reliably measuring the degree of OA among genotypes or species, the range of OA in many studies, and its impact on grain yield in water-limited environments are reviewed. The genetics of OA has received limited study, and the breeding and selection for high OA has only resulted in the release of one commercial cultivar of wheat as far as is known. The reasons for the limited interest in breeding for the OA trait are discussed.