The effects of red/far red (R/FR) ratios on leaf ascorbate (AA) and glutathione (GSH) accumulation were examined in common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.). Growth under low R/FR ratios resulted in a "shade" phenotype and much lower leaf AA and GSH contents than high (R/FR) ratios. Photosynthesis rates were unaffected by changes in the R/FR ratio but leaf respiration rates, pyridine nucleotide pools and antioxidant enzyme activities were decreased under the low R/FR regime. The GSH pool changed slowly in response to altered R/FR ratios but leaf ascorbate acclimated over a single photoperiod. We conclude that light quality signals, particularly R/FR ratios, are important regulators of antioxidant synthesis and accumulation. These acclimatory changes are an early response to changing light environment.