This paper describes research on interactions between grassland plant species and soil microorganisms. Both parasitic and symbiotic microorganisms modify nutrient transfers between plants and soil. Experiments are described in which nematode infection of clover increased nitrogen transfer to companion ryegrass plants. Infection of clover enhanced activity of soil bacterial and fungal communities. Legume genotypes differing only in responses to symbionts (rhizobium and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi) and pathogens are being developed for studies of gene expression during establishing and functional symbioses. Such plants can be used in experiments as defined perturbations that will provide information on the interactions and functions of symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms. Such studies, related to field observations, may have value for defining biological attributes of sustainable grassland soil systems.