In most soils, fungal propagules are restricted to a certain extent in their ability to grow or germinate. This phenomenon, known as soil fungistasis, has received considerable attention for more than five decades, mostly due to its association with the general suppression of soil-borne fungal diseases. Here, we review major breakthroughs in understanding the mechanisms of fungistasis. Integration of older fungistasis research and more recent findings from different biological and chemical disciplines has lead to the consensus opinion that fungistasis is most likely caused by a combination of microbial activities, namely withdrawal of nutrients from fungal propagules and production of fungistatic compounds. In addition, recent findings indicate that there are mechanistic links between these activities leading towards an integrated theory of fungistasis. Among the potentially fungistatic compounds volatiles have received particular attention. Whereas it has long been assumed that fungistasis is the result of the metabolic activity of the total soil microbial biomass, more recent research points at the importance of activities of specific components of the microbial community. These insights into fungistasis have also formed the basis for strategies to increase general soil suppression. Besides these basic and practical aspects of fungistasis, its impact on fungal ecology, in particular on fungal exploration strategies, is discussed. Finally, we take a closer look at plant-soil feedback experiments to demonstrate the occurrence of fungistasis-like phenomena and to suggest that fungistasis may be part of a much wider phenomenon: general soil biostasis. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.