BACKGROUND: The Brazilian Cerrado is one of the most important biodiversity reservoirs in the world. The sugarcane cultivation is expanding in this biome and necessitates the study of how it may impact the soil properties of the Cerrado. There is a lack of information especially about the impacts of different sugarcane management on the native bacterial communities of Cerrado soil. Therefore, our objective was to evaluate and compare the soil bacterial community structure of the Cerrado vegetation with two sugarcane systems. METHODS: We evaluated samples under native vegetation and the impact of the two most commonly used management strategies for sugarcane cultivation (burnt cane and green cane) on this diversity using pyrosequencing and quantitative PCR of the rrs gene (16S rRNA). RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Nineteen different phyla were identified, with Acidobacteria (≈35%), Proteobacteria (≈24%) and Actinobacteria (≈21%) being the most abundant. Many of the sequences were represented by few operational taxonomic units (OTUs, 3% of dissimilarity), which were found in all treatments. In contrast, there were very strong patterns of local selection, with many OTUs occurring only in one sample. Our results reveal a complex bacterial diversity, with a large fraction of microorganisms not yet described, reinforcing the importance of this biome. As possible sign of threat, the qPCR detected a reduction of the bacterial population in agricultural soils compared with native Cerrado soil communities. We conclude that sugarcane cultivation promoted significant structural changes in the soil bacterial community, with Firmicutes phylum and Acidobacteria classes being the groups most affected.