Transgenic Nicotiana tabacum plants expressing a chimeric phytase gene (ex::phyA) from the soil fungus Aspergillus niger were generated. Three independently transformed lines showed increased extracellular phytase activity compared with a vector control and wild-type plants, both of which had no detectable extracellular phytase. Transgenic N. tabacum plants grown in sterile agar supplied with phosphorus (P) as phytate accumulated 3.7-fold more P than vector control plants. Despite this, the expression of ex::phyA in plants did not lead to an improved accumulation of P from two unamended P-deficient soils. However, when soils were amended with either phytate or phosphate and lime, transgenic plants accumulated up to 52% more P than controls. Positive responses by transgenic plants were, in some instances, coincident with a putative increase in soil phytate. We conclude that the development of plants that exude phytase to the soil may not ensure improved plant P nutrition, as the availability of phytate in the soil also appears to be critical. Nevertheless, if plants that express ex::phyA are combined with soil amendments that promote the availability of phytate, there is the potential to enhance the P nutrition of crop plants and to improve the efficiency of P fertilizer use in agricultural systems.