Among soil microorganisms, bacteria and fungi and to a lesser extent actinomycetes, have received considerable attention as biocontrol agents of soil-borne fungal plant pathogens and as plant growth promoters. Within actinomycetes, Streptomyces spp. have been investigated predominantly, mainly because of their dominance on, and the ease of isolation from, dilution plates and because of the commercial interest shown on the antibiotics produced by certain Streptomyces spp. Many of non-streptomycete actinomycetes (NSA) taxa are therefore rarely reported in literature dealing with routine isolations of biocontrol agents and/or plant growth promoters from plant and soil. It is clear that special isolation methods need to be employed in routine isolations to selectively isolate NSA. Some interesting information exists, albeit in relatively few reports compared to that on other microorganisms, on the biological activities of NSA, especially in relation to their mechanisms of action in the biological control of soil-borne fungal plant pathogens and plant growth promotion. This review presents an overview of this information and seeks to encourage further investigations into what may be considered a relatively unexplored area of research. Certain soil environmental factors, especially in horticultural systems, could be manipulated to render the soil conducive for the biological activities of NSA. A variety of NSA isolated by selective methods have not only shown to be rhizosphere competent but also adapted for an endophytic life in root cortices. Some of the NSA, including endophytic strains that have shown potential to suppress soil-borne fungal plant pathogens, are able to employ one or more mechanisms of antagonism including antibiosis, hyperparasitism and the production of cell-wall degrading enzymes. Strains of NSA promote plant growth by producing plant growth regulators. Enhancement of plant growth by the antagonists are considered to help the host by producing compensatory roots that mask the impact of root diseases. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.