Factors controlling change in biodegradation rate of the pesticide isoproturon with soil depth were investigated in a field with sandy-loam soil. Soil was sampled at five depths between 0-10 and 70-80 cm. Degradation rate declined progressively down the soil profile, with degradation slower, and relative differences in degradation rate between soil depths greater, in intact cores relative to sieved soil. Neither the maximum rate of degradation, or sorption, changed with soil depth, indicating that there was no variation in bioavailability. Differences in degradation rate between soil depths were not associated with the starting population size of catabolic organisms or the number of catabolic organisms proliferating following 100% degradation. Decreasing degradation rates with soil depth were associated with an increase in the length of the lag phase prior to exponential degradation, suggesting the time required for adaptation within communities controlled degradation rates. 16S rRNA PCR denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis showed that degradation in sub-soil between 40-50 and 70-80 cm depths was associated with proliferation of the same strains of Sphingomonas spp.