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.
Plant Molecular Biology, 2013, Vol 82, Issue 6, p. 603-622