In order to obtain better bacterial species or strains for production of short side chain-poly[hydroxyalkanoate] (ssc-PHA) from cheap carbon sources, a bioprospecting programme was performed in a subtropical rainforest soil. From 398 bacterial isolates, one produced high amounts of ssc-PHA when grown on sugarcane molasses or sucrose as detected by spectrophotometric scanning and gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. Also, the GC–MS analysis indicated that the polymer was composed basically of poly[3-hydroxybutyrate] (PHB). Phylogenetic studies using 16S rDNA analysis showed that the isolated bacterium belonged to the Ralstonia pickettii species and had a high identity/similarity with 16S rDNA obtained from total DNA of uncultured strains of soils and with unidentified bacteria at species level. The new strain was named R. pickettii 61A6. Spectrofluorometric analysis showed that the best rates of ssc-PHA accumulation within the cells occurred in 10% (w/v) sucrose and in 5% (w/v) sugarcane molasses at the stationary phase, with a yield of 231 and 357 mg/l of ssc-PHA per g dry cell weight, respectively.