The LIFE Program is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. The general objective of LIFE is to contribute to the implementation, updating, and development of EU environmental and climate policy and legislation by co-financing projects with European added value. Starting in 1992 LIFE has co-financed some 3954 projects across the EU, contributing approximately €3.1 billion to the protection of the environment.

The European Commission (DG Environment and DG Climate Action) manages the LIFE program. The Commission has delegated the implementation of many components of the LIFE program to the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME).
External selection, monitoring and communication teams assist the Commission and EASME. Read more detail about the LIFE programme on the European Commission website.

The actual LIFE 2014-2020 Regulation establishes the Environment and Climate Action sub-programs of the LIFE Program for the next funding period, 2014–2020. The budget for the period is set at €3.4 billion in current prices. The LIFE program will contribute to sustainable development and the achievement of the objectives and targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the 7th Union Environmental Action Program, and other relevant EU environment and climate strategies and plans. The ‘Environment’ strand of the new program covers three priority areas: environment and resource efficiency; nature and biodiversity; and environmental governance and information.

The plants for plants® project is co-funded by the European Union’s LIFE Program under Grant Agreement LIFE18 ENV/NL/000043.
Project Sector: Resource Efficiency, including soil and forests, and green and circular economy.

Read the EU publication about Plants for Plants project®

“Firstly, we figured out what the crop lacked. Then we looked for another species that had already acquired the properties that were needed. We then took a tailored extract and applied it to the crop through fertilization programs. By doing so, we were able to trigger specific reactions in the crop.”

Adriano Altissimo
Scientific Manager, Landlab research center - Italy

Plants for Plants® concept

The first steps of Plants for Plants® started as a project to introduce new organic biostimulants with reliable performance for reducing water, nutrients, and pesticide demand.

Plants for Planter® stands on an innovative approach based on three pillars:

Plants know perfectly well what is good for them. For millions of years, they have adapted to changing conditions and overcome diseases. The diversity of nature proves to be the best context for plants to prosper. How can we blend this tremendous ability of nature into the everyday practice of agriculture? We have been working on the answer to this question for the past ten years.

For the last ten years, LandLab in Italy and Van Iperen International collaborated in a joint project called Plants for Plants®. Instead of focusing on the effect of individual molecules, we focus on the plant and let nature guide us. Briefly: first we figure out what the crop lacks. Then we look for another species that has already acquired the properties that are needed. We then take a tailored extract of this plant and apply it to the crop through fertilization programs.

By using organic plant extracts, LandLab was able to trigger specific reactions. Using this method among various species they improved water use efficiency, nutrient use efficiency, and reduced sensitivity to diseases. The tailored extracts are purely organic and have food-grade quality. The first products are expected to enter the market in 2022.

Project objectives

This new generation of plant-based biostimulants, called Standardized Metabolites Phytocomplex (SMP), is able to enhance crops’ resource efficiency, thus reducing significantly the number of nutrients, water, and pesticides needed by the crops to grow, herewith improving their resilience to climate change and diseases. The SMP, scientifically extracted from purposely cultivated plants, have overcome the main limitations of traditional biostimulants, namely their questionable performances, not always based on the renewable raw material.

During different trial seasons, Plants for Plants® has tested 3 prototypes to pursue the following specific objectives:

  1. Develop an industrial process for the production of SMP
  2. Produce 3 new biostimulants at pilot scale and validate performance on a variety of crops in open fields in different climatic conditions:
  3. Change the mindset of European conventional agricultural entrepreneurs towards the use of organic products to make their production more resource-efficient and environmentally
    friendly with similar or increased yield, by a Europe-wide demonstration and intensive dissemination
  4.  Prepare commercial launch at the end of the project
  5. SMP benefits for the target groups:
      • increased crop's climate resilience
      • reduced use of chemical commodities and water
      • increased yields
      • zero residues of food quality
      • stay competitive.

3 Prototypes

Improving resilience to abiotic stress, LL002 boosts WUE (Water Use Efficiency) leading to water savings of about 30% in irrigated crops and to significant reduction of water deficiency symptoms and increased crop yield and quality in rain-fed crops in climatic zones with water deficiency; and NUE (Nutrient Use Efficiency), especially of phosphorus.

Improving PUE (Phosphorus Use Efficiency) of annual arable crops and vegetables up to 30%, increasing absorption capacity and hence a reduction up to 30 % of P applied at sowing/planting

Activation of the primary and secondary metabolism leading to a strong enhancement of the crops comfort and therewith its defense systems called CFE (Crop Fortification Efficacy): reduction in fungicides use with about 20 to 40%.

The partners of the project

Landlab is an SME engaged for more than 15 years in R&D activities for high tech agriculture. Together with its international network of partners - global leaders in the production of hi-tech mineral, organic and organic mineral products for advanced agriculture (fertilizers, plants protection products, biostimulants), Landlab introduced the concept of "plants biostimulant" (PBS) in the plant nutrition and plant enhancement. Landlab has been designing new BS, evaluating several prototypes and products, consulting global players and performing a large number of efficacy tests (> 250 per year) of many compounds classified as biostimulants. Landlab develops the monitoring protocols, is in charge of the coordination of trials and monitors and assesses agronomic and environmental results.

Read more about Landlab

The James Hutton Institute is the premier UK crop and environment institute formed from the legacy institutes Scottish Crop Research and the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute. The JHI has extensive organic and phytochemistry laboratories, and a range of analytical equipment and capabilities including world-leading plant metabolomics systems. In the Plants4Plants project, JHI fulfills the import role with respect to phyto- and metabolic chemistry. They are experts in this field and led, co-led or been WPO leaders in many relevant plant chemistry and crop EU projects. Several of these have targeted the use of sustainable resources in agriculture and new IPM systems whilst others have had a strong phytochemistry requirement.

Read more about James Huton Institute

The University of Padua (UNIPD) is one of the leading Universities in Italy and has a long tradition of scientific excellence. The Department of Agronomy, Food, Animals, National Resources and Environment (DAFNAE) is involved in international research projects with about 20 partners in European and extra-European countries. The department has about 50 research laboratories, of which two are devoted to subjects of common interest (centralized Chemistry Laboratory and Genome Laboratory). Specialized in microbiology and soil science, UNIPD will perform the soil impact assessment of treatments over time.

Read more about the University of Padua

Euroliquids owns the largest liquid fertilizer factory in Northern Europe and produces a broad range of innovative liquid fertilizers for foliar and fertigation including the formulations with biostimulants. It develops with Van Iperen INT innovative new recipes and can boost upon a well-equipped laboratory Its long experience as a producer of liquids for the high-tech Dutch hydroponic sector provided the competences to engage successfully in the new BS production.
Euroliquids hosts the lab-scale pilot plant and will build the preindustrial pilot plant, also performing the production of the new BS needed for the project trials.

Read more about Euroloquids

Van Iperen BV is the largest privately-owned distributor of fertilizers and crop protection products in The Netherlands. They are active in the main segments with a focus on high-tech horticulture, open field cash crops, arable crops, orchards, flower bulbs, and dairy farms. Being in the market since 1921, they have a focus on long term growth. Thanks to their knowledge level, they are seen as one of the main Knowledge Centers for the Dutch growers. Their dedicated team of agronomists, crop specialists and researchers focuses on sustainable and innovative solutions. Their K&O department (Kennis & Ontwikkeling) develops long term innovative solutions with a Go-to-Market of more than 3 years. These solutions are on one hand technical solutions for Precision Agriculture and on the other hand product solutions combining innovative fertilizers and biostimulants. Van Iperen BV is in The Netherlands responsible for the realization of trials and farmer days. With a dedicated team, they serve the Dutch farmer on a daily basis.

Read more about Van Iperen BV