A RAPD-PCR assay was developed and used to test for competitive variability in growth of the nematode biological control fungus Pochonia chlamydosporia. Saprophytic competence in soil with or without tomato plants was examined in three isolates of the fungus: RES 280 (J), originally isolated from potato cyst nematode (PCN) cysts; RES 200 (I) and RES 279 (S), both originally isolated from root knot nematode (RKN) eggs. Viable counts taken at 70 d indicated that I was the best saprophyte followed by S, with J the poorest. RAPD-PCR analysis of colonies from mixed treatments revealed that there was a cumulative effect of adding isolates to the system. This suggested that the isolates did not interact and that they may occupy separate niches in soil and the rhizosphere. To investigate parasitic ability, soils were seeded with two isolates of the fungus: J and S, singly or in combination. Tomato or potato plants were grown in these soils; free of nematodes, or inoculated with PCN or RKN, and incubated for 77 d. The abundance of the PCN isolate J in PCN cysts was significantly greater than that of the RKN isolate S but in RKN egg masses, S was significantly more abundant than J. RAPD-PCR analysis of colonies from mixed treatments confirmed that J was more abundant than S in PCN cysts whereas the converse was observed on RKN egg masses. This substantiates the phenomenon of nematode host preference at the infraspecific level of P. chlamydosporia and highlights its relevance for biological control of plant parasitic nematodes.