Most plant pathogenic bacteria adopt the type III secretion systems to secrete virulence factors and/or avirulence gene products, which trigger the plant hypersensitive response (HR) and the oxidative burst with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as the main component. However, the soil-borne plant pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens uses the type IV secretion pathway to deliver its oncogenic T-DNA that causes crown gall tumours on many plant species. A. tumefaciens does not elicit a typical HR on those plants. Here, we report that inactivation of one of A. tumefaciens catalases (which converts H2O2 to H2O and O2) by a transposon insertion highly attenuated the bacterial ability to cause tumours on plants and to tolerate H2O2 toxicity, but not the bacterial viability in the absence of exogenous H2O2. This provides the first genetic evidence that the Agrobacterium–plant interaction involves a plant defence response, such as H2O2 production, and that catalase is a virulence factor for a plant pathogen.