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European agriculture practices over the years have been successful in dramatically increasing crop yields, but only through intensive use of chemical fertilisers. In recent decades, concerns have been raised regarding the use of nitrogen and phosphate fertilisers and their detrimental impact on surface and ground water. The Specific Targeted Research Project MICROMAIZE is now seeking to develop alternative strategies that will result in the significant reduction of chemical fertiliser used in a key European cropping system: maize monoculture. They also aim at such a reduction while maintaining high crop yields and maintaining existing profit margins.

Maize crop systems are extremely popular across the EU, and maize products can find wide application in a variety of activity areas including the production of biofuels. Therefore new practices are likely to have a favourable environmental and financial impact on a broad scale within the EU and also on an international scale through collaborating countries. MICROMAIZE partners will employ an often ignored ally in soiland crop-management practices, the soil microbial community.

Specifically, three types of soil microbes were chosen: the bacteria Azospirillum and Pseudomonas, and the mycorrhizal fungus Glomus. Azosprillum populations are involved in nitrogen fixation and plant hormonal balance regulation. Pseudomonas bacteria play a role in phosphate solubilisation and modulation of plant hormonal balance, and Glomus fungi are involved in nitrogen and phosphorus mineralisation and plant nutrition. Research is focused on establishing plantbeneficial microbial populations and combinations with the aim of achieving phytostimulation and biofertilisation.


Maize is a key crop in Europe, but also worldwide; therefore changes to crop management practices are expected to have a deep impact in a great number of EU and non- EU countries. The new microbial-based management practices developed through the MICROMAIZE project will be field-tested in Europe and Mexico, and after this, validation can be applied in a number of INCO (International Cooperation) regions worldwide.

Project partners from a number of EU and non-EU countries will work in unison to identify the specific microbial-plant interactions that can be of benefit to maize plants and can be incorporated in crop management practices in order to reduce the use of chemical inputs. Partners are keen not to jeopardise the EU's position as a leading producer but at the same time they are seeking to reduce the environmental impact of current cropping systems, which function with high fertilisation and irrigation inputs. Maize responds very well to fertilisers, and very high volumes of chemicals are used in cultures, increasing the potential for contamination of ground and surface waters.

List of Partners

  • UMR CNRS 5557 Ecologie Microbienne (France)
  • Cylnatis (France)
  • National University of Ireland in Cork (Ireland)
  • Institute of Integrative Biology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Switzerland)
  • Agricultural Research Institute, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Hungary)
  • National University of Mexico (Mexico)
  • Symbio-m (Czech Republic)
  • Arvalis (France)
  • Alma Consulting Group (France)
Full title:
Management of plantbeneficial microbes to balance fertiliser inputs in maize monoculture
Contract n°:
Project co-ordinator:
Yvan Moënne-Loccoz, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (Délégation Rhône Auvergne), France,
EC Scientific Officer:
Massimo Burioni,
EU contribution:
€ 1.9M
Specific Targeted Research Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top