Rhizobacteria were isolated from the rhizoplane and rhizosphere of soybean plants from fields in Arkansas and tested for their effect on numbers of soybean cyst nematode (Heterodera glycines). In initial greenhouse tests in heat-treated silt loam soil, 138 of the 201 bacterial isolates tested had no influence on numbers of cysts and eggs + second-stage juveniles (J2) of H. glycines, 36 reduced (suppressive isolates) and 27 increased (enhancing isolates) numbers of cysts and (or) eggs + J2 when compared to the controls (P </= 0.05). When 20 suppressive and five enhancing isolates were retested in the same soil, the results were highly variable and inconclusive. The 25 isolates were then evaluated in vitro for their effects on eggs and J2 of H. glycines. No clear relationship was detected between the inhibition of egg hatch or immobilization of J2 in vitro and antagonistic activity toward nematodes in vivo. Amendment of the soil with 0.1% (w/w) peptone or casein hydrolysate did not improve the effects of suppressive isolates on numbers of H. glycines. Nineteen of the 25 isolates were identified based on analysis of fatty acid methyl esters, and they are in 11 different genera.