Controlling expression of IPT, a gene encoding isopentenyl transferase (the enzyme that catalyzes the rate-limiting step in cytokinin biosynthesis), with a senescence-specific promoter results in the suppression of leaf senescence. Transgenic tobacco plants expressing this chimeric gene do not exhibit the developmental abnormalities usually associated with IPT expression because the system is autoregulatory. Because sufficient cytokinin is produced to retard senescence, the activity of the senescence-specific promoter is attenuated. Senescence-retarded leaves exhibit a prolonged, photosynthetically active life-span. This result demonstrates that endogenously produced cytokinin can regulate senescence and provides a system to specifically manipulate the senescence program.