Cereals including wheat and barley are of primary importance to ensure food security for the 21st century. A combination of lab- and field-based approaches has led to a considerably improved understanding of the importance of organ and particularly of whole-plant (monocarpic) senescence for wheat and barley yield and quality. A delicate balance between senescence timing, grain nutrient content, nutrient-use efficiency, and yield needs to be considered to (further) improve cereal varieties for a given environment and end use. The recent characterization of theGpc-1(NAM-1) genes in wheat and barley demonstrates the interdependence of these traits. Lines or varieties with functionalGpc-1genes demonstrate earlier senescence and enhanced grain protein and micronutrient content but, depending on the environment, somewhat reduced yields. A major effort is needed to dissect regulatory networks centred on additional wheat and barley transcription factors and signalling pathways influencing the senescence process. Similarly, while important molecular details of nutrient (particularly nitrogen) remobilization from senescing organs to developing grains have been identified, important knowledge gaps remain. The genes coding for the major proteases involved in senescence-associated plastidial protein degradation are largely unknown. Membrane transport proteins involved in the different transport steps occurring between senescing organ (such as leaf mesophyll) cells and protein bodies in the endosperm of developing grains remain to be identified or further characterized. Existing data suggest that an improved understanding of all these steps will reveal additional, important targets for continued cereal improvement.