Biological nitrogen fixation is an important process for agricultural productivity in many cropping systems because of direct inputs of atmospheric nitrogen, and rotational effects such as disease control. Advances in molecular biology techniques provide new opportunities to understand the ecology of root nodule bacteria and may improve the selection of elite strains for inoculation. An understanding of the genetic basis of nodulation in grain and pasture legumes may improve inoculation technologies. Temperate and tropical pastures may be improved through effective inoculation, removal of nutritional constraints, and use of alternate legume species. Increases in nitrogen fixation in crop legumes may result from addressing problems in the legume host, the microsymbiont and the environment. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1–800–342- 9678. E-mail address: [email protected]]