The potential reproductive value of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (Gloinus intraradices and Glomus invermaium), root pathogenic fungi (Rhizoctonia solani and Fusarium culmorum) and saprotrophic fungi (Penicillium hordei and Trichoderma harzianum) were examined for the collembolans Folsomia candida Willem and Folsomia fimetaria L. Dried baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) was used as a reference standard food in laboratory cultures. Collembolan performance was determined as final size, fecundity and population growth rate after when fed the fungal food sources for 31 days. The mycorrhizal fungi gave the least growth and fecundity compared with the other fungi, but G. intraradices gave good fecundity for F. candida. In terms of growth, Baker's yeast was a high-quality food for both adults and juveniles of both species, but it was a poorer food in terms of fecundity of F. candida. Preference of the fungi in all possible pairwise combinations showed that although F. fimetaria did not perform well on Glomus spp. and F. candida did not grow well on Glomus spp. their preference for these fungi did not reflect this. The highest fecundity was seen with the root pathogen F. culmorum. Different quality indicators such as the C:N ratio of the fungal food sources as well as other biological parameters are discussed in relation to their reproductive value and Collembola preferential feeding. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.