Soft rot erwiniae are a group of notorious plant pathogens for which currently available detection methods are inadequate. Based on the polymerase chain reaction, specific and sensitive detection of Erwinia carotovora subsp. atroseptica and E. chrysanthemi in potato tubers has been achieved. The composition of the PCR primers used in two specific detection systems is based on identification of the consensus of sequences of metalloprotease-coding genes present in soft rot erwiniae. Bacterial DNA was extracted from the potato tuber matrix by differential centrifugation in order to avoid interference of potato-derived compounds with the performance of the PCR assay. The PCR assay jjerformed with the E. carotovora subsp. atroseptica specific primer set was found to be capable of distinguishing E. carotovora subsp. atroseptica from all other Erwinia species and the closely related subspecies E. carotovora subsp. carotovora. With the E. chrysanthemi specific primer set, agarose gel electrophoresis is required for unequivocal differentiation between E. chrysanthemi and other erwiniae. Combined with the efficient extraction procedure, the assay allowed specific detection of less than 103 culturable erwiniae per tuber. The specificity and sensitivity of the assay were not reduced in the presence of a 100-fold excess of DNA from both related and unrelated bacteria. This PCR-based method for detection of erwiniae in potato tubers provides a relatively fast and sensitive alternative to routinely applied serological methods.