Foliar and root symptoms are described for Australian lucerne yellows (ALuY), a disease common in Australian lucerne seed crops. A phytoplasma was detected in plants exhibiting symptoms, but not in symptomless lucerne plants. Oligonucleotide primers specific to the phytoplasma 16S-23S rRNA intergenic spacer region (SR) were used in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays on DNA extracted from lucerne plants with and without symptoms. Identical restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) enzyme profiles were obtained for PCR products amplified from 10 yellows-affected lucerne samples. RFLP profiles obtained for four restriction enzymes were different from those of the tomato big bud (TBB) phytoplasma. ALuY phytoplasma PCR products were sequenced to determine phylogeny and were found to fall within the faba bean phyllody phytoplasma group, or phytoplasma group 16srII. Transmission electron microscopy revealed phytoplasmas in the phloem of yellows-affected plant samples, but not in symptomless plant samples. Fungal, bacterial and viral agents in the aetiology of Australian lucerne yellows were ruled out.