A detailed analysis was made of chemical fractions of common agro-residues before and after pretreatment (alkali and hydrogen peroxide), and the selective utilization of components such as WSS, EBS, TSS, lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose by pure and mixed cultures of cellulolytic and xylanolytic Clostridia was monitored and correlated with the organisms' enzyme activity. For all cultures pretreatment gave higher utilization of hemicellulose and cellulose fractions; hydrogen peroxide pretreatment was more effective than NaOH treatment. Lignin utilization was not very significant even on pretreatment. C.TM1 and C.SA IV utilized hemicellulose and cellulose better than mixed cultures in selected substrates. These results help to determine the substrate composition, pretreatment conditions and enzyme system of the organism needed when designing an inoculum for agricultural waste treatment processes such as composting or biogas generation.