The controls on aboveground community composition and diversity have been extensively studied, but our understanding of the drivers of belowground microbial communities is relatively lacking, despite their importance for ecosystem functioning. In this study, we fitted statistical models to explain landscape-scale variation in soil microbial community composition using data from 180 sites covering a broad range of grassland types, soil and climatic conditions in England. We found that variation in soil microbial communities was explained by abiotic factors like climate, pH and soil properties. Biotic factors, namely community-weighted means (CWM) of plant functional traits, also explained variation in soil microbial communities. In particular, more bacterial-dominated microbial communities were associated with exploitative plant traits versus fungal-dominated communities with resource-conservative traits, showing that plant functional traits and soil microbial communities are closely related at the landscape scale. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/CNRS.