Five ways to stay green

J Exp Bot. 2000 Feb:51 Spec No:329-37. doi: 10.1093/jexbot/51.suppl_1.329.


The relationship between carbon income and expenditure over the life of a leaf is described and related to the productivity benefits of altering the timing of senescence initiation. In genetic variants with delayed leaf senescence ('stay-greens') deconstruction of the photosynthetic apparatus during leaf senescence is partially or completely prevented. Although the staygreen phenotype is superficially similar in all species and genotypes, the genetic and physiological routes to the trait are diverse. In one type of stay-green, chlorophyll catabolism is disabled. Legumes and monocots with pigment breakdown lesions are discussed. Sorghum is presented as an example of another kind of stay-green in which perennial tendencies have been bred into a monocarpic annual crop species. Transgenic approaches are briefly discussed (enhanced endogenous cytokinins, reduced ethylene production or perception). An alternative route towards making a stay-green phenotype is through quantitative trait mapping and marker-assisted selection. Loci for greenness in pearl millet have been identified, some of which are associated with drought responses or flowering time. Finally the question of the limits on stay-green as a productivity-enhancing character is addressed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carbon / metabolism*
  • Chlorophyll / metabolism*
  • Photosynthesis / physiology*
  • Plant Leaves / genetics
  • Plant Leaves / physiology
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / physiology


  • Chlorophyll
  • Carbon