The use of bioluminescence as a sensitive marker for detection of Pseudomonas spp. in the rhizosphere was investigated. Continuous expression of the luxCDABE genes, required for bioluminescence, was not detectable in the rhizosphere. However, when either a naphthalene-inducible luxCDABE construct or a constitutive luxAB construct (coding only for the luciferase) was introduced into the Pseudomonas cells, light emission could be initiated just prior to measurement by the addition of naphthalene or the substrate for luciferase, n-decyl aldehyde, respectively. These Pseudomonas cells could successfully be detected in the rhizosphere by using autophotography or optical fiber light measurement techniques. Detection required the presence of 103 to 104 CFU/cm of root, showing that the bioluminescence technique is at least 1,000-fold more sensitive than β-galactosidase-based systems.