BACKGROUND: Herbicide tolerance is an important trait that allows effective weed management in wheat crops. Genetic knowledge of metribuzin tolerance in wheat is needed to develop new cultivars for the industry. Here, we evaluated metribuzin tolerance in a recombinant inbred line (RIL) mapping population derived from Synthetic W7984 and Opata 85 over two consecutive years to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) contributing to the trait. Herbicide tolerance was measured by two chlorophyll traits, SPAD chlorophyll content index (CCI) and visual senescence score (SNS). The markers associated with major QTL from Synthetic W7984, positively contributing to reduced phytotoxic effects under herbicide treatment were validated in two F3/4 recombinant inbred populations developed from crosses of Synthetic W7984 × Westonia and Synthetic W7984 × Lang. RESULTS: Composite interval mapping (CIM) identified four QTL, two on chromosome 4A and one each on chromosomes 2D and 1A. The chromosomal position of the two QTL mapped on 4A within 10 cM intervals was refined and validated by multiple interval mapping (MIM). The major QTL affecting both measures of tolerance jointly explained 42 and 45% of the phenotypic variation by percentage CCI reduction and SNS, respectively. The identified QTL have a pure additive effect. The metribuzin tolerant allele of markers, Xgwm33 and Xbarc343, conferred lower phytotoxicity and explained the maximum phenotypic variation of 28.8 and 24.5%, respectively. The approximate physical localization of the QTL revealed the presence of five candidate genes (ribulose-bisphosphate carboxylase, oxidoreductase (rbcS), glycosyltransferase, serine/threonine-specific protein kinase and phosphotransferase) with a direct role in photosynthesis and/or metabolic detoxification pathways. CONCLUSION: Metribuzin causes photo-inhibition by interrupting electron flow in PSII. Consequently, chlorophyll traits enabled the measure of high proportion of genetic variability in the mapping population. The validated molecular markers associated with metribuzin tolerance mediating QTL may be used in marker-assisted breeding to select metribuzin tolerant lines. Alternatively, validated favourable alleles could be introgressed into elite wheat cultivars to enhance metribuzin tolerance and improve grain yield in dryland farming for sustainable wheat production.