The effect of adding easily available and more complex carbon sources, with and without nitrogen, on fungal and bacterial growth and activity in soil were studied in the laboratory. Total microbial activity was estimated by measuring respiration, fungal growth with the acetate-in-ergosterol incorporation technique and bacterial growth with the thymidine and leucine incorporation techniques. The substrate additions consisted of glucose and cellulose, with and without nitrogen (as ammonium nitrate), and gelatine. The microbial development was followed over a 2-month period. The respiration rate increased within a few days after adding glucose, with and without nitrogen, and gelatine, initially by more than 10 but after 2 months no differences were seen compared with the control. Bacterial growth estimated, mated with the thymidine and leucine incorporation techniques gave similar results. Adding glucose with nitrogen, or gelatine, increased bacterial growth within a few days up to 10 times, but even after 2 months of incubation bacterial growth rates were still about 5 times higher than in the control. Adding only glucose increased bacterial growth rates by about twice over the whole incubation period. Fungal growth rates especially increased after adding cellulose and nitrogen, although a minor increase was found after adding cellulose alone. Fungal growth rates started to increase after 10 days of incubation with cellulose. There were indications of synergistic effects in that bacterial growth increased after the fungi had started to grow after adding cellulose. Treatments resulting in high bacterial growth rates (adding easily available carbon sources) led to decreased fungal growth rates compared with the control, indicating antagonistic effects of bacteria. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.