A substantial number of studies have been conducted over the last several decades to assess the potential impacts of long-term increases in ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B between 280 and 320 nm) that will result from continued depletion of stratospheric ozone. However, seasonal changes, tropospheric chemistry and cloudiness are the dominant factors controlling ambient UV-B levels on a short-term or daily basis. The effects of short-term changes in UV-B on plant growth, phytochemistry and physiological processes have received relatively little attention. The USDA UV-B Monitoring and Research Program provides an excellent network of stations that provide an opportunity to monitor long-term changes in solar UV-B radiation and evaluate the responses of plants to short-term variation in UV-B levels on a near-real-time basis. In this study barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and soybean (Glycine max [L] Merr.) were used as model systems. Emerging seedlings of these species were grown under either near-ambient levels of UV-B or under reduced levels (ca 90% reduction) in the field. Periodic measurements of foliar UV-screening compounds were made on separate groups of seedlings planted at intervals over the growing season during contrasting periods of ambient levels of UV radiation. The levels of UV-screening compounds correlated with UV-B levels in both species and with UV-A in soybean but the sensitivity of the response differed between the two species and among the soybean cultivars. Response differences among species may be related to unique secondary chemistry of each species, so one response estimate or action spectrum may not be appropriate for all species.