A total of 134 isolates of Phytophthora infestans were collected from potato and 42 from tomato fields in Switzerland and France in 1996 and 1997, and compared with isolates from other countries. The structure of the populations was analysed phenotypically and genotypically, and associated to geographical, seasonal and host origin. Phenotype characteristics of the isolates included mating type; sensitivity to phenylamide fungicides; virulence on potato differentials; and pathogenic fitness. Genotypes were assessed for mitochondrial DNA haplotype with restriction fragment length polymorphism-polymerase chain reaction (RFLP-PCR) as well as amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) and simple sequence repeats or microsatellites (SSR). The majority (96%) of isolates originating from potato were the A1 mating type, whereas half the isolates collected from tomato were A2 mating type. Isolates with sensitive, intermediate and resistant responses to the phenylamide fungicide metalaxyl-M were detected in the populations. Isolates from potato represented races with highly complex virulence spectra, whereas those from tomato belonged to simple races. The pathogenic fitness of isolates was highest on the host of origin, and was significantly reduced for isolates from potato on tomato. One of the four haplotypes, Ia, dominated the population (93% of isolates). Among isolates collected from potato, 15 different SSR genotypes were detected of which two, A-03 and A-06, dominated the population. From tomato, 11 SSR genotypes were found of which four, A-03, B-03, D-03 and F-01, formed the major proportion of the population. Every ninth and fourth isolate from potato and tomato, respectively, represented a different SSR genotype. Four genotypes were isolated from both hosts, whereas 11 and seven genotypes, respectively, originated exclusively from either potato or tomato. The SSR genotype D-02, represented by the ‘old’ Ib haplotype, was still detected in a few isolates in the current population, and in older reference isolates from different countries. The SSR genotype was not associated with mating type or sensitivity to phenylamide fungicides. A total of 40 AFLP genotypes were distinguished among the isolates, every second isolate representing another genotype. The diverse phenotypic and genotypic structure of the current field populations in Europe suggests that they may have evolved from local processes including sexual recombination, host preference and selection rather than through long-distance migration.