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Management strategies for improving soybean yield are most effective when you are able to identify growth stages. In upcoming issues we’ll discuss practices like fertilization and pesticide application, and variables like weather damage and moisture stress. The effects of each of these will be dependent on the growth stage in which these events occur.

Below you will find a handy reference for identifying growth stages. Keep in mind the stages can overlap; a growth stage begins when 50 percent or more of the plants are in or beyond that stage.

Vegetative Stages


Emergence - cotyledons have been pulled through the soil surface


Unrolled unifoliolate leaves - unfolding of the unifoliolate leaves



First trifoliolate - one set of unfolded trifoliolate leaves


Second trifoliolate - two sets of unfolded trifoliolate leaves


Fourth trifoliolate - four unfolded trifoliolate leaves



nth trifoliolate - V stages continue with the unfolding of trifoliolate leaves. The final number of trifoliolate's depends on the soybean variety and the environmental conditions

Reproductive Stages

Beginning flowering - plants have at least one flower on any node


Full flowering - there is an open flower at one of the two uppermost nodes


Beginning pod - pods are 3/16 inch (5 mm) at one of the four uppermost nodes


Full pod - pods are 3/4 inch (2 cm) at one of the four uppermost nodes


Beginning seed - seed is 1/8 inch long (3 mm) long in the pod at one of the four uppermost nodes on the main stem


Full seed - pod containing a green seed that fills the pod capacity at one of the four uppermost nodes on the main stem


Beginning maturity - one normal pod on the main stem has reached it's mature pod color


Full maturity - 95% of the pods have reached their full mature color

Excerpted from the Soybean Extension and Research Program, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University (

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