The culturability of microorganisms in a 10 cm core of an Australian pasture soil was investigated using a minimal agar medium with xylan as the growth substrate. Culturability decreased with increasing depth, from a maximum of 19% of the total microscopically countable cells in the 0–2 cm section to 2.4% in the 8–10 cm section. Seventy-one isolates from the core were identified by comparative 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis. Many of these isolates belong to groups of globally distributed soil bacteria, including well-characterized families of the classes Alphaproteobacteria and Betaproteobacteria, and of the subclass Actinobacteridae. Other isolates belong to groups with few or no cultivated representatives: 10 isolates in two subdivisions of the phylum Acidobacteria, five isolates in a new order and nine isolates in a new family of the class Alphaproteobacteria, two isolates in a new order of the class Gammaproteobacteria, three isolates in two new families of the subclass Actinobacteridae, and two isolates in the subclass Rubrobacteridae. These new isolates represent the first laboratory cultures able to be assigned to some of these groups and greatly increase the number of cultivated strains known for others. This demonstrates that a minimal change in cultivation strategy (using a polymeric growth substrate and longer incubation times) can result in the isolation of globally distributed but previously uncultured phylogenetically novel soil bacteria.