Abstract Exposure of dry oxic paddy sol to submerged anoxic conditions resulted in a decrease of the soil redox potential and initiation of CH4 production. However, the most probable numbers (MPN) of hydrogenotrophic and acetotrophic methanogens did not change upon flooding the soil and upon initiation of CH4 production, and stayed constant at 105−106 and 104−105 g−1 d.w. soil, respectively. Cells of Methanobacterium strain Bab1 added to anoxic soil suspensions mostly survived drying and storage under an air atmosphere. Initiation of CH4 production was not affected by storage of dry soil under N2, air, or O2 atmosphere. However, it was negatively affected by storage under the air at high negatively affected by storage under air at high relative humidities, under moist conditions, or by using only the small (< 100 μ m) soil particle fraction. All these treatments also resulted in decreased contents of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). The soil's capacity for initiation of CH4 production could be regenerated either by addition of glucose or by exposure to H2 and addition of reducing agents. The establishment of decreased redox potentials and the provision of methanogenic substrates by heterotrophic bacteria, but not the number of methanogenic bacteria, seemed to be the essential factors for initiation of CH4 production after submergence of oxic paddy soil. CH4 production could also be initiated in forest and arable soils. Here, however, the population of methanogenic bacteria (MPN) increased from about 103 to 105−106 g−1 d.w. when methanogenesis started.