Soybean plants were grown in hydroponic solutions having three concentration levels of phosphorus. Spectral reflectance changes included higher reflectance in the green and yellow portions of the electromagnetic spectrum in phosphorus-deficient plants and a difference in position of the long wavelength edge (the red edge) of the chlorophyll absorption band centered near 0.68 ??m. Plants having the least phosphorus in the growing medium did not show the normal shift of the red edge to longer wavelength which occurs as leaves mature. Shoot and root biomass were significantly lower in the phosphorus-deficient plants. These results are consistent with those obtained when soybean plants are dosed with elevated concentrations of metallic elements. We hypothesize that nutrient imbalances or anomalous metal concentrations in the soil set up physiological conditions at the soil/root interface that are responsible for the reflectance differences observed in laboratory and field studies of plants growing in substrates enriched in metallic elements. ?? 1991.