Most models of crop growth and yield require an estimate of canopy leaf area index or absorption of radiation; however, direct measurement of LAI or light absorption can be tedious and time-consuming. The object of this study was to develop relationships between photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) absorbed by corn (Zea mays L.) canopies and the spectral reflectance of the canopies. Absorption of PAR was measured near solar noon in corn canopies planted in north-south rows at densities of 50,000 and 100,000 plants ha.-1 Reflectance factor data were acquired with a radiometer with spectral bands similar to the Landsat MSS. Three spectral vegetation indices (ratio of near infrared to red reflectance, normalized difference, and greenness) were associated with more than 95% of the variability in absorbed PAR from planting to silking. The relationships developed between absorbed PAR and the three indices were tested with reflectance factor data acquired from corn canopies planted in 1979-1982 that excluded those canopies from which the equations were developed. Treatments included in these data were two hybrids, four planting densities (25, 50, 75, and 100 thousand plantsha-1), three soil types (Typic Argiaquoll, Udollic Ochraqualf, and Aeric Ochraqualf), and several planting dates. Seasonal cumulations of measured LAI and each of the three indices were associated with greater than 50% of the variation in final grain yields from the test years. Seasonal cumulations of daily absorbed PAR, estimated indirectly from the multispectral reflectance of the canopies, were associated with up to 73% of the variation in final grain yields. Absorbed PAR, cumulated through the growing season, is a better indicator of yield than cumulated leaf area index.