Bacillus subtilis is a sporulating Gram-positive bacterium that lives primarily in the soil and associated water sources. Whilst this bacterium has been studied extensively in the laboratory, relatively few studies have been undertaken to study its activity in natural environments. The publication of the B. subtilis genome sequence and subsequent systematic functional analysis programme have provided an opportunity to develop tools for analysing the role and expression of Bacillus genes in situ. In this paper we discuss analytical approaches that are being developed to relate genes to function in environments such as the rhizosphere.