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24, chemin de Borde Rouge -Auzeville - CS52627 31326 Castanet Tolosan cedex - France

Last update: May 2021

Menu Institut Sophia Agrobiotech Logo Marque Etat - République Française Logo_INRAE_noir Logo Université Côte d'Azur CNRS

Institut Sophia Agrobiotech

Institut Sophia Agrobiotech

UMR INRA - Univ. Nice Sophia Antipolis - Cnrs

Experimental Installation

Experimental Installation of Institut Sophia Agrobiotech
© inra
The research unit "Institut Sophia Agrobiotech" (ISA) has a set of facilities dedicated to experiments under controlled conditions, enabling it to study multiple biological models from the cellular scale up to agro-ecosystem.

General presentation

The ISA Experimental Installation (ISA EI) offers 81 climate chambers (694 m²) with temperature, hygrometry and photoperiod control , 13 cold rooms (123 m²) and 40 greenhouse compartments (5000 m²).

Species and associations of species studied are particularly diverse and cover both the plant kingdom (tomato, tobacco, rose, maize, alfalfa, sorghum, cotton, chili, bean, pistachio, peony, hellebore, poplar),  arthropod pests and biological control auxiliaries,  vectors or plant viruses, , phytopathogenic nematodes, fungi, oomycetes and bacteria.

SAI also hosts collections of living organisms: a Biological Resource Center (BRC) of oophagous parasitic insects and collections of phytoparasitic nematodes.

This Experimental Installation is obviously accessible under certain conditions to academic research teams outside the unit as well as to private companies.

Rare biological resources: collections

Collections of phytoparasitic nematodes


C. Slagmulder - ©Inra

Three living collections of phytoparasitic nematodes are housed in the ISA Experimental Installation, focusing on the major agronomic and/or environmental groups: gall nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.), nematodes vectors of the short-knot virus Vine (Xiphinema spp.) and pine nematodes (Bursaphelenchus spp.). They are maintained in dedicated facilities with appropriate containment and agreements for the handling of quarantine species. To date, the distribution of this characterized biological material is restricted to collaborations with private / public partners.

Biological Resource Center of oophagous  parasitoid insects (Trichogramma): BRC Ep-Coll.


A BRC dedicated to hymenopteran parasitoids of eggs, currently focused on the Trichogramma genus, is hosted within the  ISA EI. Its objectives are to collect and maintain strains of original and well-characterized auxiliaries, and make them available to the international scientific community together with a set of information (geographical and ecological distribution, DNA sequences, phenotypes etc ...). BRC Ep-Coll has obtained the IBiSA label ( and it is integrated into the French national infrastructure RARE (

For any information or request,  contact:

Specific equipment

Experimental spaces within greenhouses or climatic rooms are accessible to external users, whether academic or private. Access modalities vary according to the nature of the project: simple provision of space, provision of services or research collaboration. To identify the type of access best suitable to your project, you can contact: Nadine Sellier (avec le lien adresse mail)


Serre 1

Unconfined greenhouses facility is made up  of 30 chapels of variable surface (40 to 250 m2) while a confined greenhouse (S2) offers 5 chapels of 20m2 each. These greenhouses are equipped for cultivation above the ground and some are equipped with anti-insect nets.

Controlled by a centralized system (ARIA), the climate and ferti-irrigation of greenhouses are accurately regulated according to the experimental requirements. The main controllable climate parameters are temperature (heating / cooling), hygrometry (dehumidification / humidification) and solar radiation (shading screens).

Plants watering from an osmosis (reverse osmosis) water station and nutrients is monitored using pH and electroconductivity probes, flow meters and injection pumps, regulating the rhythm and volume of inputs. The meteorological data of the site are collected via an ARIA weather station equipped with conventional sensors (wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, solar radiation, rainfall).

Climatic chambers

The 81 climate rooms (694 m²), with an average surface area of 8 m², are equipped with tablars and a neon lighting system. They allow the cultivation of plants in the soil or on artificial substrates, and the breeding of insects.

Serre 6     Serre  5

Of these, 29 have strict confining conditions and have been agreed to rear quarantine organisms (nematode pests, exotic biological control auxiliaries) or genetically modified organisms.

The whole set of climatic rooms is controlled by a  CTG system allowing the control of temperature, photoperiod and relative hygrometry. An automated monitoring system ensures the maintenance of abiotic conditions.

High skills, unique expertise

 The experimental Installation is intimately connected with the Research Unit. The experiments set up within the SAI-EI are carried out by permanent scientists, engineers and technicians, assisted by temporary staff and students. The technicians working there, are attached to the research teams and dedicate between 10 to 50% of their time to the EI. They represent approximately 17 full-time equivalents (FTE), and have a wide range of technical skills and scientific expertise.

In addition to the proven know-how in managing climatic chambers and greenhouses, the various facets of plant culture are implemented, ranging from in vitro culture for model plants to the cultivation of vegetable or horticultural plants. Many measurements are possible for phenotyping: measurements of the various parts of the plants, phenology, root and aerial growth, detection and evaluation of physical, biochemical or immunological responses to pathogens or other pests such as phytophagous insects or nematodes. These measurements can be carried out under finely controlled abiotic conditions mimicking favorable or stressful situations.

A wide range of skills in insect breeding are also available (e.g. raising parasitoid insects or natural pests on plants), allowing their morphological and molecular characterization, studying their physiology (such as the immune defense or the ability to counteract these defenses) and development through measures of life history traits (fertility, longevity, parasitic success, ...) or finally analyzing their behavior, all from the individual to the population scale. Experimental evolution protocols can also be implemented over many generations. This allows the monitoring and characterization of multitrophic interactions in controlled environments.

A range of techniques are used to understand the mechanisms of the interactions, using tools such as Electropenetrography (EPG) or Olfactometry, image analysis and biochemical and genomic approaches.

Cultures of nematodes, oomycetes, fungi, algae and bacteria are routinely carried out to evaluate their growth capacity ,  virulence, and interactions with the hosts or the environment.

The detention of certain organisms requires working in a confined environment in accordance with the strict procedures imposed by the various agreements held by SAI-EI.

The maintenance of all the experimental facilities is ensured by a Technical Service whose competences contribute to guarantee a high level of reliability and technicality.

If you are looking for the skills available within the SAI-EI staff as part of your project, , you can  contact us to discuss possible options, from skills  transfer training for  your research team, to the development of a collaborative research project: contact.


SAI-EI is led by a Steering Committee composed of the Directorate of the SAI and scientists representative of the experimental activities. Technical and / or organizational evolutions are proposed and implemented by a Technical Committee (18 people), composed of scientists and technicians from each research team using the EI.

Scientific collaboration projects are directly processed by the research teams; Other requests for access are submitted to this Steering Committee which evaluates the opportunity and feasibility of the project with the Technical Committee. .