The activity of heterotrophic soil microorganisms is usually limited by the availability and quality of carbon (C). Adding organic substances will thus trigger a microbial response. We studied the response in bacterial growth and respiration after the addition of low amounts of glucose. First we determined if additions of glucose, at concentrations which did not result in an exponential increase in respiration after the lag phase, still stimulated bacterial growth. The second aim was to determine the threshold concentration of glucose needed to induce bacterial growth. Adding glucose-C at 1000 mu g g(-1) soil resulted in an increased respiration rate, which was stable during 12 h, and then decreased without showing any exponential increase in respiration. Bacterial growth, determined as leucine incorporation, did not change compared to an unamended control during the first 12 h, but then increased to levels 5 times higher than in the control. Thus, after the lag phase, a period with increasing bacterial growth, but at the same time decreasing respiration rates, was found. Similar results, but with a more modest increase in bacterial growth, were found using 500 mu g glucose-C g(-1) soil. Adding 50-700 mu g glucose-C g(-1) resulted in increased respiration during 24 h correlating with the addition rate. In contrast, bacterial growth after 24 h was only stimulated by glucose additions >200 mu g C g(-1) soil. Thus, there was a threshold concentration of added substrate for inducing bacterial growth. Below the threshold concentration growth and respiration appear to be uncoupled. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.