Invited Speaker

Dr. Saddam Hussain

Dr. Saddam Hussain

Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan
Speech Title: Use of Plant-based Superabsorbent Polymers for Enhancing Agricultural Productivity in Marginal and Stress-prone Areas: Overview and Prospects

Abstract: Agriculture is considered as the backbone of Pakistan's economy and millions of people in the country directly rely on this sector for their food and livelihoods. Nevertheless, the rapidly increasing population, shrinkage of land and water resources, climate change, and stagnant agricultural growth are threatening the food security and livelihood of the rural population. In Pakistan, approximately 6 mha area is affected by soil salinity, while 5 mha area is covered by Cholistan and Thal. The crop yields in these areas are quite low, and a big yield gap exists between the potential yields and actual yields attained at the farm level. However, these areas may contribute a significant share towards national agricultural production and the economy of Pakistan, by adopting appropriate and cost-effective technologies that support soil water conservation, reduce direct evaporation losses, enhance stress tolerance, and improve soil water balance. Biodegradable and superabsorbent polymers (BSPs) can be used as an efficient, sustainable, and environment-friendly approach to ensure the profitable cultivation of crops in marginal and stress-prone areas. Application of BSPs may increase the water and nutrient holding capacity, reduce irrigation requirement, ensure uniform water consumption, facilitate rapid root growth, minimize nutrient losses, and enhance soil physical properties. Nevertheless, most of the superabsorbent polymers particularly from synthetic sources are too costly and are difficult to apply on a field-scale by resource-poor farmers. Moreover, synthetic polymers are not easily degraded in soil and may cause environmental pollution. It is, therefore, inevitable to focus on the production of BSPs with plants/microbes, and their hybrids which are environmentally and economically acceptable for the farming community. Dr. Saddam Hussain is the pioneer scientist working on the synthesis of novel plant-based BSPs from agricultural waste. He has successfully tested the efficacy of these polymers under different abiotic stresses including salinity and drought. Here, he will comprehensively discuss the potential use of BSPs for enhancing crop productivity and resource use efficiency in marginal and stress-prone areas. He will highlight the current state of knowledge, new progress made along with future research trends, and major challenges hindering the wide-scale application of BSPs in Pakistan.

Keywords: Abiotic Stresses; Biodegradable and superabsorbent polymers; Crop Productivity; Sustainability

Biography: Dr. Saddam Hussain is working as Associate Professor in the area of Plant Stress Physiology at the Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad-Pakistan. He has been recognized with several international distinctions/awards in recent years. He published over 180 refereed journal papers (h-index: 55, i10-index: 135, citations: >12000; October 2022), many of which have sought to understand the morphological, physiological, biochemical, and molecular basis of crop responses to individual and concurrent abiotic stresses and mechanisms imparting tolerance for such stresses. He devised promising strategies for improving crop performance under sub-optimum conditions and suggested various novel indicators for augmenting stress tolerance in plants. The impact of his publications is consistently on the increase, and he is now receiving over 1500 citations in every single year. His name has been featured in the “Highly Cited Researchers” list by Clarivate/Web of Science for the last two consecutive years (2021 and 2022). During his professional career, he has availed several national/international grants as a principal investigator worth Rs. >100 million. His academic activities include advising and mentoring graduate students and teaching undergraduate and post-graduate courses related to plant physiology and agronomy. To date, he has supervised >100 postgraduate students as a major supervisor/ supervisory committee member. Currently, he is working as an Editor/Editorial board member of various international journals including Journal of Advanced Research (Q1, Elsevier), Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety (Q1, Elsevier), Journal of Plant Growth Regulation (Q1, Springer), BMC Plant Biology (Q1, Springer), Food and Energy Security (Q1, Wiley), Crop Science-CSSA (Q1, Wiley), PLOS One (Q1, USA), Plants (Q1, MDPI), International Journal of Agronomy, Applied Environmental and Soil Science, Frontiers in Agronomy, and PeerJ - Life and Environment.