Recent studies point to the importance of soil borne parasites as agents of vegetation change via their negative effect on host plants. Here we show that these soil organisms can influence vegetation characteristics by increasing the transfer of the plant growth-limiting nutrient nitrogen (N) from their host, a N-fixing legume, to neighbouring grass species, thereby benefiting the growth of the neighbour. Furthermore, the amount of N transferred from the legume to the neighbour, and its consequent effect on the neighbours growth, was dependant on the density of root infestation. This mechanism of N transfer from legumes to neighbouring plant species is likely to be an important agent of vegetation change. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.