The ecological examination of members of the family Rhizobiaceae has been hampered by the lack of a selective medium for isolation of root nodule bacteria from soil. A novel non-antibiotic-containing medium has been developed which allows selective isolation of Bradyrhizobium japonicum and B. elkanii strains from soil and inoculants. The medium, BJSM, is based on the resistance of B. japonicum and B. elkanii strains to more than 40 μg of the metals ions Zn2+ and Co2+ per ml. BJSM does not allow growth of Rhizobium sp. strains. We used BJSM to isolate bacteria from a Hubbard soil and from several commercially prepared soybean inoculants. Ninety-eight percent of the isolates obtained from Hubbard soil nodulated Glycine max cv. Kasota, and between 55 and 95% of the isolates from the commercial inoculants had the ability to nodulate soybeans. Numbers of bradyrhizobia obtained by using BJSM, strain-specific fluorescent antibodies, and the most-probable-number plant infection assay indicated that the three techniques were comparable in quantifying B. japonicum strains in soils and inoculants, although most- probable-number counts were generally 0.5 order of magnitude greater than those obtained by using BJSM. Results of our studies indicate that BJSM is useful for direct isolation and quantification of B. japonicum and B. elkanii from natural soils and inoculants. This medium may prove to be an important tool for autecological and enumeration studies of diverse populations of bradyrhizobia and as a quality control method for soybean inoculants.