The first trifoliate of soybean was shaded when fully expanded, while the plant remained in high light; a situation representative for plants growing in a closed crop. Leaf mass and respiration rate per unit area declined sharply in the first few days upon shading and remained rather constant during the further 12 days of the shading treatment. Leaf nitrogen per unit area decreased gradually until the leaves were shed. Leaf senescence was enhanced by the shading treatment in contrast to control plants growing in low light. Shaded leaves on plants grown at low nutrient availability senesced earlier than shaded leaves on plants grown at high nutrient availability. The light saturated rate of photosynthesis decreased also gradually during the shading treatment, but somewhat faster than leaf N, whereas chlorophyll contents declined somewhat slower than leaf N.
Partitioning of N in the leaf over main photosynthetic functions was estimated from parameters derived from the response of photosynthesis to CO2. It appeared that the N exported from the leaf was more at the expense of compounds that make up photosynthetic capacity than of those involved in photon absorption, resulting in a change in partitioning of N within the photosynthetic apparatus. Photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency increased during the shading treatment, which was for the largest part due to the decrease in leaf N content, to some extent to the decrease in respiration rate and only for a small part to change in partitioning of N within the photosynthetic apparatus.