The influence of plant spacing and row orientation on spectral distribution of light received by growing soybean (Gylcine max [L.] Merr.) plants was measured under field conditions. Light absorption, reflection and transmission of individual leaves showed that most of the blue and red was absorbed while most of the far-red was either reflected or transmitted. Plants growing in the field received different ratios of far-red relative to red, depending on nearness and/or orientation of other vegetation. Plants grown in close-spaced rows, or high population densities, received higher far-red/red ratios than did those grown in wide rows, or sparse populations. Heliotropic movements of the leaves also contributed to the far-red reflection patterns associated with row orientation. Under field conditions, differences in far-red/red ratios associated with nearness of competing vegetation became more pronounced with low solar angle near the end of the day. Plants exposed to far-red for 5 minutes at the end of each day in controlled environments, and those grown in close-spaced rows in the field, developed longer internodes and fewer branches. Red, far-red photoreversibility in the controlled environment study indicated involvement of phytochrome. Dry matter partitioning among plant components in the field was related to far-red/red light ratio received during growth and development.