Microbial growth in the rhizosphere is affected by the release of organic material from roots, so differences in carbon budgets between plants may affect their rhizosphere biology. This was tested by sampling populations of bacteria and bacteriophagous fauna from the rhizosphere of Lolium perenne, Festuca arundinacea, Poa annua, and Poa pratensis, under conditions of high and low nitrate availability. Concentrations of soluble phenolics and lignin varied considerably between the species but were not related to differences in rhizosphere biology. L. perenne and F. arundinacea supported fewer bacteria than the Poa species. There was no significant rhizosphere effect on the groups of protozoa. The major indicators of rhizosphere productivity were the bacterial-feeding nematodes (mainly Acrobeloides spp.), and there was a large positive effect of added nitrate. Nematode biomass was significantly lower in the rhizosphere of the slow-growing P. pratensis compared with the fast-growing P. annua, indicating that the differential allocation of carbon has affects on rhizosphere biology. A large rhizosphere effect on enchytraeid worms was also observed, and their potential importance in the rhizosphere is discussed.