Four commonly used conjugation techniques, colony cross streak (CCS), broth mating (BM), combined spread plate (CSP), and membrane filtration (MF), were compared with each other regarding reliability, sensitivity, and complexity in evaluating the transfer of conjugative plasmids. Five plasmids representing several incompatibility groups plus a variety of laboratory and environmental isolates were used as mating pairs. The suitability of each method was evaluated for use in a routine assessment of the genetic stability of genetically engineered microorganisms. By the CSP and MF techniques, with laboratory strains such as Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas species as recipients, transconjugants were usually produced in 100% of the mating trials. However, when environmental strains isolated from plants and soil were used as recipients, transconjugants were detected in 100% of some crosses and in as little as 30% in other crosses depending on the plasmid and recipient used.