Plant Molecular Biology

, Volume 82, Issue 6, pp 603–622 | Cite as

Plant senescence and crop productivity

  • Per L. Gregersen
  • Andrea Culetic
  • Luca Boschian
  • Karin KrupinskaEmail author


Senescence is a developmental process which in annual crop plants overlaps with the reproductive phase. Senescence might reduce crop yield when it is induced prematurely under adverse environmental conditions. This review covers the role of senescence for the productivity of crop plants. With the aim to enhance productivity, a number of functional stay-green cultivars have been selected by conventional breeding, in particular of sorghum and maize. In many cases, a positive correlation between leaf area duration and yield has been observed, although in a number of other cases, stay-green cultivars do not display significant effects with regards to productivity. In several crops, the stay-green phenotype is observed to be associated with a higher drought resistance and a better performance under low nitrogen conditions. Among the approaches used to achieve stay-green phenotypes in transgenic plants, the expression of the IPT gene under control of senescence-associated promoters has been the most successful. The promoters employed for senescence-regulated expression contain cis-elements for binding of WRKY transcription factors and factors controlled by abscisic acid. In most crops transformed with such constructs the stay-green character has led to increased biomass, but only in few cases to increased seed yield. A coincidence of drought stress resistance and stay-green trait is observed in many transgenic plants.


Biomass Leaf senescence Crop plant Productivity Sink-source interactions Whole plant senescence Yield 



We thank Susheng Gan for encouraging us to write this article and also for stimulating discussions. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers of our manuscript for valuable suggestions. Sascha Ludwig (CAU, Kiel, Germany) is thanked for providing the photos of tobacco transformants. We acknowledge funding of the European Commission in the frame of the MC-ITN “CropLife”.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Per L. Gregersen
    • 1
  • Andrea Culetic
    • 2
  • Luca Boschian
    • 2
  • Karin Krupinska
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Molecular Biology and GeneticsAarhus UniversitySlagelseDenmark
  2. 2.Institute of BotanyUniversity of KielKielGermany

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