Professor Azam-Ali’s background is in plant physiology and environmental physics. He has co-ordinated research in three continents that applies scientific principles to agricultural development, particularly in the tropics.
In 1988, he established the Tropical Crops Research Unit (TCRU), which integrated transdisciplinary research at Nottingham University with field studies in Africa and Asia. This encompassed studies of climate change impacts on tropical crops, assessments of underutilised species, nitrogen fixation in non-legumes, molecular and participatory approaches for breeding objectives, the measurement of water and nitrogen use efficiencies and the modelling rainwater harvesting technologies as well as other research on crops growing in hostile environments and for which factors limiting growth are least understood.
The best example of this research approach is the work he has co-ordinated on bambara groundnut since 1988, through EU-funded projects and involving eleven international institutions. Achievements of this work include: the first ever hybrid between a landrace and a wild accession, a core collection of germplasm, the first genetic linkage map of the species, progress in the agronomy, physiology and nutritional biochemistry of bambara seeds, as well as modelling and GIS techniques to identify ideotypes and the global potential of the species.
Until recently, Professor Azam-Ali was Vice-Provost (Research and Internationalisation) and Professor of Tropical Agronomy at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. In July 2011, he was appointed as CEO of the Crops for the Future Research Centre (CFFRC) in Semenyih, Malaysia.