The growth and development of the soybean plant happens in multiple stages that fall under either the Vegetative or Reproductive categories. The Vegetative stages are all concerned with leaf development, while the Reproductive stages signify the development of other parts of the soybean plant, such as flowers and seeds.
There are six Vegetative stages and they are named according to the number of fully-developed trifoliolate leaves that are present in the soybean plant. These stages are VE (Emergence), VC (unrolled unifoliolate leaves), V1 (one set of trifoliolate leaves), V2 (two sets of trifoliolate leaves) and so on up to V(n). Here, n depends upon the soybean variety and environmental conditions the plant is growing in.
There are eight Reproductive stages, which are named R1 to R8. Of these, R1 and R2 refer to flowering stages, R3 and R4 to pod development and R5 and R6 to seed development. The final two stages, R7 and R8, signify beginning and full maturation of the plant, respectively.
The stages are not always distinct, and one or more of them can overlap. The best way to determine whether a plant is in a particular growth stage is to confirm whether more than half the plant is in or beyond that stage.