The spatial distribution and temporal development of tomato crown and root rot, caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. radicis-lycopersici, were studied in naturally infested fields in 1996 and 1997. Disease progression fit a logistic model better than a monomolecular one. Geostatistical analyses and semivariogram calculations revealed that the disease spreads from infected plants to a distance of 1.1 to 4.4 m during the growing season. By using a chlorate-resistant nitrate nonutilizing (nit) mutant of F. oxysporum f. sp. radicis-lycopersici as a 'tagged' inoculum, the pathogen was found to spread from one plant to the next via infection of the roots. The pathogen spread to up to four plants (2.0 m) on either side of the inoculated focus plant. Root colonization by the nit mutant showed a decreasing gradient from the site of inoculation to both sides of the inoculated plant. Simulation experiments in the greenhouse further established that this soilborne pathogen can spread from root to root during the growing season. These findings suggest a polycyclic nature of F. oxysporum f. sp. radicis-lycopersici, a deviation from the monocyclic nature of many non-zoosporic soilborne pathogens.