Ahmed Debez

Dr. Ahmed Debez

Center of Biotechnology of Borj-Cedria

Biography

Dr. Ahmed Debez is currently working as Associate Professor at the Center of Biotechnology of Borj-Cedria (CBBC) (Tunisia). Dr. Debez was born in Algiers (Algeria). After completing his Agronomics Engineer studies at the "Institut National d’Agronomie" (El Harrach, Algeria), he moved to Tunisia to pursuit his research career there. He obtained a “Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies” in Plant Ecophysiology and a PhD in Plant Biology at the Sciences Faculty of Tunis (Tunisia) respectively in 1998 and 2005. He also received his Habilitation at the Sciences Faculty of Sciences (Tunisia) in 2017. Dr. Debez made his career at the Center of Biotechnology of Borj-Cedria (CBBC) but was granted twice from prestigious German research organisms to perform long research stays at the Leibniz University of Hannover. The first time between December 2001 and March 2003 as PhD student thanks to a DAAD fellowship and then as post-doctoral researcher between January 2007 and January 2009 thanks a fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. At the Laboratory of Extremophile Plants (LPE at the CBBC), Dr. Debez is currently focusing on the characterisation and valorisation plants native of extreme (mainly saline and arid) environments. At the fundamental level, his research topics aim at the identification of the mechanisms enabling these unique plants to thrive in such hostile conditions, by using multidisciplinary approaches (ecophysiological, biochemical, and molecular). At the applied level, the research activities focus on the economical potential of halophytes as fodder and seed-oil species, but also as a source of natural antioxidants. Dr. Debez has published 65 articles (research and reviews) in International journals and 15 book chapters related to his research topics. He is member of the Tunisian Association of Biotechnology and the International Plant Proteomics Organisation. Besides, he was selected in 2013 to be a member of the Arab-German Young Academy of Sciences and Humanities (AGYA).

 

Synopsis

Biosaline agriculture: Insights and perspectives in the context of the global climate changes

Growth of the human population is expected to reach 9.3 billion by 2050, and hence requires a substantial and parallel increase of crop production to ensure food security, especially in the developing countries. In the context of climate changes, characterized by increasing temperatures and salinity, water shortage, and extreme climatic events, it will be challenging to meet this equation. Taking the case of salinity, crop production is restricted by salinity on 40% of the world’s irrigated land. In addition, 19.5% of the currently 230 million ha irrigated land, and about 5% of 1,500 million ha under dry land agriculture are salt-affected to varying degrees. It is estimated that salinisation of irrigated lands causes annual global income loss of about US $12 billion, severely impacting aggregate national incomes in several countries. Halophytes are plants that can complete their life cycle in soils with salinity concentrations close to sea water salinity. Halophytes, which represent 1% of the world’s flora, thrive in a wide range of habitats, from arid regions to coastal marshes. Given that oceans contain most of the water on earth, the concept of sustainable agriculture using the so-called “biosaline agriculture” is gradually emerging and gaining increasing interest among the scientific community. The twenty first century will likely be the century of halophyte agriculture expansion, as diminishing fresh water resources put pressure on civilization to utilize the vast saline soils and aquifers. The development of successful saline agriculture necessitates a better understanding of the potential of plant species to withstand ambient salinity and sodicity levels in soil and water, and also of the potential uses and markets for the agricultural products. In this contribution, we address the most recent information available with respect to the potential utilizations of halophytes in the context of halo-biotechnology, and present some practical recommendations to be considered for a economically viable and environmentally compatible sustainable biosaline agriculture.