Dr. Fardausi (Shathi) Akhter

Image Fardausi (Shathi) Akhter
Research Scientist

Agro-ecosystems Researcher

Current research and/or projects

Role of field boundary habitats (FBH) in enhancing biodiversity, crop yield, and quality (Role: Project Lead; Co-Lead: William May, AAFC-Indian Head, SK)

This project attempts to measure the benefits or services provided by FBH, such as increased pollination from native bees and predation of flea beetles and other pests by carabid beetles, to determine whether it is advantageous for producers to maintain these habitat areas on the landscape.

Intercropping fruiting shrubs with annual and perennial crops in marginal lands (Role: Project Lead; Co-Lead: William May, AAFC-Indian Head, SK). The project is in the preliminary stages of data collection and awaits funding support for large scale data collection and analysis.

Intercropping with fruiting shrubs is a cropping practice that integrates shrubs and crops throughout a field. In this system, annual or perennial crops are grown between rows of high-value shrubs to maximize benefits and productivity per unit area of land.

Managing farm-level wetlands: develop practices that support yield, biodiversity, and ecosystem services on Prairie farms (Role: Project Lead). The project is in the preliminary stages of data collection and awaits funding support for large scale data collection and analysis.

A greater understanding of farm-level wetlands in agroecosystems and the development of BMPs for managing these wetlands, resulting from scientific information derived from real working farmscapes, has benefits for producers and policymakers, as well as the public good.

Improving water quality by precision application of manure and promising pollutant mitigation options (Role: co-investigator; PL: Dr. Haben Asgedom Tedla, AAFC- Saskatoon, SK)

Although manure is one of the major sources of nutrition, it can also potentially contaminate the nearby waterbody. In this project, we looked into the management options to improve water quality by the precision application of manure and promising mitigation options.

Establishment of a living laboratory on the eastern Prairies to address persistent agri-environmental challenges (Role: collaborator; PL: Dr. Henry Wilson, AAFC-Brandon, MB)

The project addresses the need for place-based solutions to ongoing regional agri-environmental issues, increased involvement of end-users in the innovation process, and increased adoption of practices that create resilience and sustainability in the agricultural sector.

Increasing the suitability of the Holos model for life cycle analysis through production cycle inputs, collaborative/open source development, and the development of representative farm systems (Role: collaborator; PL: Dr. Roland Kroebel, AAFC-Lethbridge, AB)

​The Holos model, Canadas whole-farm model, is increasingly being used by researchers, policymakers, and industry to calculate the greenhouse gas intensity (CO2 equivalents) of Canadian agricultural production systems using a life cycle approach.

An investigation of the localization and chemical speciation of chloride within canaryseed using synchrotron XRF and XANES techniques (Role: Project Lead; Co-Lead: William May, AAFC-Indian Head, SK)

Recent research conducted at the Indian Head Research Farm of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada indicated that chloride is involved in unknown physiological mechanisms in canaryseed that affect floret fertility and seed filling. A better understanding of the physiology behind the chloride response will allow us to refine our recommendations on when, how, and how much chloride fertilizer should be applied in canaryseed to see the best response in grain yield.

Distribution and chemical speciation of toxic metals in the tissues of wood frogs from industrially-impacted wetlands (Role: Project Lead; Co-Lead: Dr. Catherine Soos, Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie and Northern Wildlife Research Centre, Saskatoon, SK).

The project will help validate the use of cutting-edge tools to understand the consequences of a rapidly changing environment on the health of amphibian populations, which can ultimately inform conservation decisions to mitigate impacts of contaminant exposure and stress on wildlife and potentially identify populations at risk.  

Research and/or project statements

Role of field boundary habitats in enhancing biodiversity, crop yield, and quality (Role: Project Lead; Co-Lead: William May)

  • Field boundary habitats (FBH) are typically non-cropped areas adjacent to annual crops. There has been little documented research on the ecological and economic benefits of FBH in promoting crop productivity and ecological diversity in intensely cropped agricultural landscapes in Saskatchewan.
  • This project attempts to measure the benefits or services provided by FBH, such as increased pollination from native bees and predation of flea beetles and other pests by carabid beetles, to determine whether it is advantageous for producers to maintain these habitat areas on the landscape.
  • By collecting field-level data on yield, biodiversity, and soil health and linking these to economic cost-benefit analysis, this research intends to provide recommendations for producers on the function and value of field boundaries for increasing yield and reducing production risk. Project-generated crop yield and quality data to quantify FBH area impacts will determine the gain/loss of crop returns adjacent to the FBH area. The relationship between field boundary type and the economic break-even point at which the benefits of the boundary outweigh the loss of crop production in the area occupied by the border will be assessed.
  • Such information will help producers during decision-making when introducing farm-level management practices that address farm productivity and support biodiversity and soil health.

 

Intercropping fruiting shrubs with annual and perennial crops in marginal lands (Role: Project Lead; Co-Lead: William May, AAFC-Indian Head, SK).

  • Intercropping with fruiting shrubs or other high-value shrubs is a cropping practice that integrates shrubs/trees and crops throughout a field. In this system, annual or perennial crops are grown between rows of high-value shrubs to maximize benefits and productivity per unit area of land.
  • This cropping system may be particularly adapted to marginal lands, hard to farm areas, and sensitive landscapes by increasing the economic return from this land and providing additional protection from erosion and degradation. 
  • In this project, we are comparing an orchard system for seabuckthorn and buffaloberry production and regular annual cropping to intercropping the seabuckthorn and buffaloberries with annual crops or perennial legume.

  • Seabuckthorn (Hippophae spp.) is a cold-hardy plant that produces a fruit highly valued for its unique nutritional and medicinal properties and rapidly develops an extensive root system capable of fixing nitrogen. Introduced into the Canadian prairies in the early 1930s, seabuckthorn was planted in shelterbelts to enhance wildlife habitat and prevent soil erosion. Published literature indicates seabuckthorn berries are high in vitamins C, A, E, and K, organic acids, flavonoids, carotenoids, sterols, and essential fatty acids.

  • Buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea) is found in the open prairie in the North American Great Plains. Like seabuckthorn, the species can form a symbiotic relationship with the nitrogen-fixing soil actinomycetes Frankia. With their high nitrogen content, buffaloberry is an important food source for wildlife and birds and is commonly used in shrub rows in Great Plain's windbreaks and wildlife plantings. The berries contain a high total phenolic compound, titratable acids, and ascorbic acid. Buffaloberry was commonly used by North American First Nations in pemmican and dyes.

  • Recently, publicity for plant-based bioactive compounds has increased consumer demand for “super fruits” rich in total antioxidants or flavonoids that uniquely contribute to human wellness. While tree/shrub-based intercropping systems are well known for their microclimate modification, wind protection, and environmental role, they often have been undervalued for their economic contribution to the agricultural sector.

  • The project is in the preliminary stages of data collection and awaits funding support for large scale data collection, and analysis.

 

Managing farm-level wetlands: develop practices that support yield, biodiversity, and ecosystem services on Prairie farms (Role: Project Lead). The project is in the preliminary stages of data collection and awaits funding support for large scale data collection and analysis.

  • Wetlands provide essential ecosystem services including carbon sequestration, water storage, downstream flood mitigation, sediment and residue trapping, nutrient filtration and storage, and reduction of environmental contaminants. Wetlands also provide refuge for agriculturally beneficial pest predators and pollinators, food, and shelter for numerous invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds, and other wildlife.
  • At present, there is a shortage of scientific data related to agricultural wetlands on real farms in the Prairies, primarily associated with smaller and ephemeral wetlands.
  • The extensive amount of land occupied by smaller and ephemeral wetlands makes it crucial to understand their importance and promote best management practices to benefit from their cumulative potential to provide ecological services and resilience in the agricultural landscape.
  • We propose “ecological intensification” as a solution to sustainable augmentation of agricultural production by maintaining or enhancing ecosystem services provided by farm-level smaller and ephemeral wetlands in the Prairies.

Notably, in the proposed project, we will focus on Saskatchewan farm-level smaller and ephemeral wetlands. We will

  • quantify the value of retaining farm-level wetlands to adjacent land productivity by considering agronomic and environmental goods and services provided by these wetlands, 
  • develop Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) for managing these wetlands, 
  • conduct an economic cost-benefit analysis of retaining these wetlands, and 
  • using outcomes from this project, develop a new component for AAFC's whole-farm model HOLOS to link agricultural management practices with potential benefits gained from farm-level wetlands.

 

Improving water quality by precision application of manure and promising pollutant mitigation options (Role: Collaborator; PL: Dr. Haben Asgedom Tedla, AAFC- Saskatoon, SK)

  • Although manure is one of the major sources of nutrition, it can also potentially contaminate the nearby waterbody. In this project, we looked into the management options to improve water quality by the precision application of manure and promising mitigation options.

 

Establishment of a living laboratory on the eastern Prairies to address persistent agri-environmental challenges (Role: collaborator; PL: Dr. Henry Wilson, AAFC-Brandon, MB)

  • The actions proposed in this project addresses the need for place-based solutions to ongoing regional agri-environmen​tal issues, for increased involvement of end-users in the innovation process, and leads to increased adoption of practices that create resilience and sustainability in the agricultural sector.
  • Research and development activities proposed in this project will focus on the four main environmental health priorities of the EPLL: a) soil health, b) water management, c) habitat capacity, and d) climate change.

 

Increasing the suitability of the Holos model for life cycle analysis through production cycle inputs, collaborative/open source development, and the development of representative farm systems (Role: collaborator; PL: Dr. Roland Kroebel, AAFC-Lethbridge, AB)

  • The Holos model is unique because it reflects Canadian agriculture and uses Canadian-derive​d emission factors.
  • The goal of this project is to build the Holos model (version 4) interface around the basic principles of multi-year production cycles, in alignment with user requests.

 

An investigation of the localization and chemical speciation of chloride within canaryseed using synchrotron XRF and XANES techniques (Role: Project Lead; Co-Lead: William May, AAFC-Indian Head, SK)

  • We are using synchrotron XRF and XANES techniques available on the VESPERS beamline at the Canadian Light Source to investigate the distribution and chemical speciation of chloride in canaryseed.
  • The information is required because our research indicates that chloride is involved in unknown physiological mechanisms in canaryseed that promote floret fertility and seed filling.
  • To investigate this further, we are looking into the uptake and distribution mechanisms of chloride by mapping the element at the cellular and sub-cellular levels within the root and above-ground tissues, including anthesis and seed filling stages, and by determining chemical speciation of chloride within chloride hot spots identified inside canaryseed tissues. The findings will help to understand how canaryseed plants take chloride up at the root surface, translocate to the aboveground tissues, and subsequently distributed to the flowering organs and seeds.
  • The study will benefit canaryseed producers since the grain yield of canaryseed often has a 25% increase to chloride fertilizer. A better understanding of the physiology behind the chloride response will allow us to refine our recommendations on when, how, and how much chloride fertilizer should be applied in canaryseed to see the best response in grain yield.  

 

Distribution and chemical speciation of toxic metals in the tissues of wood frogs from industrially-impacted wetlands (Role: Project Lead; Co-Lead: Dr. Catherine Soos, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Saskatoon, SK).

  • We are using macro XRF Imaging and micro XRF Imaging techniques available on the Canadian Light Source (CLS) BioXAS- Imaging beamline and Advanced Photon Source (Argonne National Laboratory, USA) APS 20-ID beamline to investigate the distribution and chemical speciation of toxic metals in the tissues of wood frogs living in wetlands in AB and SK that have been affected by the hydrocarbon extraction and agriculture industry.
  • Synchrotron X-ray fluorescence (XRF) has smaller beam sizes and highly sensitive detection systems that can provide spatially resolved concentration maps of elements to image toxic metals distribution within the animals directly. When added to synchrotron X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES), it can also provide information on element-specific oxidation state and coordination environment within target tissues and cells.
  • The findings from our project will uncover potential homeostatic mechanisms of toxic metals accumulation and distribution in wood frogs to expand our current understanding of how amphibians respond to these stressors in the natural environment.
  • Our research will help validate the use of cutting-edge tools to understand the consequences of a rapidly changing environment on the health of amphibian populations, which can ultimately inform conservation decisions to mitigate impacts of contaminant exposure and stress on wildlife, and potentially identify populations at risk.

Professional activities / interests

  • Agro-ecosystems health and productivity
  • Wetlands
  • Agroforestry
  • Application of synchrotron techniques in agriculture and environmental research

 

Education and awards

Education

  • Ph.D. in Biology and Environmental Sustainability, University of Western Ontario, 2012.
  • MSc. in Soil Science, University of Manitoba, 2008. 
  • MSc. in Environmental Management, National University of Singapore, Singapore, 2005.
  • MSc. in Forestry, University of Chittagong, Chittagong, Bangladesh, 2004.
  • BSc. in Forestry, University of Chittagong, Chittagong, Bangladesh, 2002.

Awards

  • NSERC Visiting Fellowship, Environment and Climate Change Canada (Dec 2014)
  • Graduate Program in Environment & Sustainability Travel Award, University of Western Ontario (2011, 2012)
  • CSPP Duff Travel Award, Canadian Society of Plant Physiologists (CSPP) (2011)
  • Western Graduate Research Scholarship, University of Western Ontario (2008)
  • Manitoba Graduate Scholarship, University of Manitoba (2006)
  • Graduate Student Entrance Scholarship, University of Manitoba (2006 and 2007)
  • Graduate Student Scholarship, University of Chittagong (2003)
  • Undergraduate Student Award, University of Chittagong| Bangladesh (2002)

International experience and/or work

  • Editor, International Journal of Food Science and Agriculture

  • Editor, Agroforestry Systems

  • Guest Associate Editor, Frontiers in Environmental Science. Special issue on Rural Land Change and the Capacity for Ecosystem Conservation and Sustainable Production in North America. (November 2018-present)

Key publications

  1. Kröbel, R., Stephens, E.C., Gorzelak, M.A., Thivierge, M.N., Akhter, F., Nyiraneza, J., Singer, S.D., Geddes, C.M., Glenn, A.J., Devillers, N., Alemu, A.W., St. Luce, M., Giardetti, D. (2021). Making farming more sustainable by helping farmers to decide rather than telling them what to do. Environmental Research Letters, [online] 16(5), http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/abef30

    2021 - View publication details

Research facility

1 Airport Road
Swift Current, SK S9H 3X2
Canada

Affiliations

  • Poplar and Willow Council of Canada (2018-till date)
  • Prairie Water (2019- till date)
  • PCAP Saskatchewan (Sep 2018-till date)
  • Canadian Light Source (2019-till date)
  • Association for Temperate Agroforestry (Sep 2019-till date)
  • Canadian Society of Plant Biologists (2009-till date)
  • ECO Canada (Environmental Professional-R&D; 2013- till date)
  • International Association for Landscape Ecology – North America (2019-till date)
  • Manitoba Soil Science Society (2006-till date)
  • Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists (PAg; 2013-till date)
  • Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry - North America Chapter (2014-till date)
  • The Wildlife Society - Saskatchewan Chapter (2014-till date)
  • Nature Saskatchewan (2019 - till date)

Language

English