To study the effect of microenvironments on potato-associated bacteria, the abundance and diversity of bacteria isolated from the rhizosphere, phyllosphere, endorhiza, and endosphere of field grown potato was analyzed. Culturable bacteria were obtained after plating on R2A medium. The endophytic populations averaged 10(3) and 10(5) CFU/g (fresh wt.) for the endosphere and endorhiza. respectively, which were lower than those for the ectophytic microenvironments, with 10(5) and 10(7) CFU/g (fresh wt.) for the phyllosphere and rhizosphere, respectively. The composition and richness of bacterial species was microenvironment-dependent. The occurrence and diversity of potato-associated bacteria was additionally monitored by a cultivation-independent approach using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of 16S rDNA. The patterns obtained revealed a high heterogeneity of community composition and suggested the existence of microenvironment-specific communities. In an approach to measure the antagonistic potential of potato-associated bacteria, a total of 440 bacteria was screened by dual testing for in vitro antagonism towards the soilborne pathogens Verticillium dahliae and Rhizoctonia solani. The proportion of isolates with antagonistic activity was highest for the rhizosphere (10%), followed by the endorhiza (9%), phyllosphere (6%), and endosphere (5%). All 33 fungal antagonists were characterized by testing their in vitro antagonistic mechanisms, including their glucanolytic, chitinolytic, pectinolytic, cellulolytic, and proteolytic activity, and by their BOX-PCR fingerprints. In addition, they were screened for their biocontrol activity against Meloidogyne incognita. Overall, nine isolates belonging to Pseudomonas and Streptomyces species were found to control both fungal pathogens and M. incognita and were therefore considered as promising biological control agents.