Pythium ultimum var. sporangiiferum (76 isolates) and P. aphanidermatum (21 isolates) cultured from diseased sugar beet seedlings in Minnesota and North Dakota were tested for sensitivity to metalaxyl, pathogenicity on sugar beet, and disease control by metalaxyl seed treatment. Sensitivity to metalaxyl (effective concentration causing 50% growth inhibition [EC50]) was determined by linear growth on corn meal agar amended with 0, 0.01, 0.1, 1, 10, and 100 μg a.i. metalaxyl ml-1 after 48 h in the dark at 21 ± 1°C. Variation among isolates was significant (P = 0.05) within and between species, and EC50 values averaged 0.16 (range: 0.05 to 1.30 μg ml-1) for P. ultimum var. sporangiiferum and 2.06 (range: 1.19 to 3.12 μg ml-1) for P. aphanidermatum. In pathogenicity tests on sugar beet, most isolates of P. ultimum var. sporangiiferum (72 of 76) and all of P. aphanidermatum significantly (P = 0.05) decreased final stands compared to the noninoculated control. There was no correlation between aggressiveness in the absence of metalaxyl and in vitro sensitivity to metalaxyl. When Pythium-infested soil was planted with seed treated with metalaxyl at the standard (0.625 g a.i. kg-1) or half rate, some isolates that were least sensitive to metalaxyl in vitro resulted in a significant (P = 0.05) reduction in disease control. These results may explain, at least in part, why producers do not attain expected stands when they plant metalaxyl-treated sugar beet seed.