A large-scale ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungus inoculation program was conducted in plantation forest tree nurseries in Australia and China over a period of 2 years. These experiments used a wide diversity of fungi (90 isolates belonging to 23 genera), most of which were obtained from Australian eucalyptus plantations or forests. These trials compared the effectiveness of mycelial slurries (homogenised liquid fungal cultures) and spore suspensions (ground dried fruit bodies) as inoculum forms in nurseries with widely differing management regimes. The success rate of inoculation was moderate, regardless of nursery management regime (38% overall). However, there were substantial differences in overall performance between fungal genera, with agaricoid genera, such as Descolea and Laccaria, and hypogeous (truffle-like) fungi performing better than sequestrate genera, such as Pisolithus and Scleroderma. Comparison of congeneric fungal isolates from different climatic regions did not show significant differences in the performance of fungi from regions where climatic conditions were most similar to nursery conditions relative to those from disparate climatic regions (tropical, temperate, or mediterranean). There was a higher overall success rate for inoculation with spore suspensions (49%) than for mycelial slurries obtained from liquid cultures (35%). Spore-based inoculum was also easier to use and much less expensive to produce than mycelial slurries. It is recommended that future studies investigate the use of mixtures of fungi and attempt to optimise spore germination to increase the reliability of eucalypt seedling nursery inoculation. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.