Climate change threatens the ability of agriculture and forestry to meet growing global demands for food, fibre and wood products. Information gathered from genotype-by-environment interactions (G×E), which demonstrate intraspecific variation in phenotypic plasticity (the ability of a genotype to alter its phenotype in response to environmental change), may prove important for bolstering agricultural and forest productivity under climate change. Nonetheless, very few studies have explicitly quantified genotype plasticity-productivity relationships in agriculture or forestry. Here, we conceptualize the importance of intraspecific variation in agricultural and forest species plasticity, and discuss the physiological and genetic factors contributing to intraspecific variation in phenotypic plasticity. Our discussion highlights the need for an integrated understanding of the mechanisms of G×E, more extensive assessments of genotypic responses to climate change under field conditions, and explicit testing of genotype plasticity-productivity relationships. Ultimately, further investigation of intraspecific variation in phenotypic plasticity in agriculture and forestry may prove important for identifying genotypes capable of increasing or sustaining productivity under more extreme climatic conditions. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.