A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Dallas Names Director, Assistant Director

The AgriLife leaders look forward to working with public and private partners as the center advances science to protect natural resources, support economies, and promote sustainable urban living in North Texas.

Daniel Leskovar, Ph.D., and Ambika Chandra, Ph.D., have taken on the roles of director and assistant director at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas, effective Jan. 1.

“We are very pleased to welcome Dr. Leskovar and Dr. Chandra to these leadership roles in Dallas,” G. Cliff Lamb, director of AgriLife Research, said in a statement. “Their directorship represents a significant step forward in nourishing health, strengthening communities, protecting natural resources, and supporting economies in North Texas.”

Leskovar, professor in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Horticultural Sciences and director of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Uvalde, has been serving as interim director of the Texas A&M AgriLife center at Dallas since March 2020.

Chandra, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research turfgrass breeder and professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, has led the turfgrass breeding program in Dallas since 2007, AgriLife said. Chandra will continue managing that program as the center’s assistant director.

The Texas A&M AgriLife center at Dallas is one of the 13 centers across Texas that advance research, public outreach, and educational programs throughout the state. Each center tailors its mission to meet the needs of the region it is in.

AgriLife said that in their new leadership roles in Dallas, Leskovar and Chandra will oversee the center’s mission to promote urban horticulture and forestry, the effective use of water and land resources, urban landscapes, and healthy living for all Texans.

‘Shaping a more sustainable and prosperous world’

Leskovar began serving as an AgriLife Research vegetable physiologist in 1991 in Uvalde. His background is in horticultural sciences, and he is an expert in plant physiology, soil science, irrigation, hydroponics and integrated crop management.

In Uvalde, Leskovar oversaw research projects in vegetable physiology, aiming to uncover the mechanisms plants use to adapt to environmental stresses, AgriLife said. He also led the center’s collaboration on multistate and international research projects.

AgriLife said that throughout Leskovar’s career, he has significantly contributed to new knowledge in plant responses to abiotic stresses and crop management systems.

He has served as associate director for the Texas A&M Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center, and his leadership helped the unit broaden engagement with regional vegetable industries and stakeholders and expand collaboration among researchers and graduate students, AgriLife said.

“This center houses an incredible group of research and extension specialists. I look forward to growing with them and embracing the task of shaping a more sustainable and prosperous world,” Leskovar said in a statement.

Developing stress-tolerant, climate-resilient turfgrass

Chandra will work alongside Leskovar to meet the needs of Dallas area residents, the industry, and beyond, the center said.

As a researcher, Chandra has focused primarily on breeding turfgrass cultivars, which requires an interdisciplinary approach involving high-throughput phenotyping, genomics, physiology, agronomy, soil sciences, and more, the center said.

AgriLife said Chandra’s program has developed stress-tolerant and climate-resilient turfgrass cultivars produced worldwide.

Her contributions have included great strides in sustainable urban living through the reduced use of water and pesticides in urban communities as well as through new opportunities for academic collaboration with public and private sectors, both nationally and internationally.

“I’ve been at the center in Dallas for years now, and one thing I love about it is the unique challenges of a deeply urban region,” Chandra said. “It offers a lot of exciting ways to view agriculture. Developing cultivars of turfgrass, which are used for golf courses and athletic fields, is one of them. It might not come to mind when people think of agriculture, but it’s vital for the functionality and environmental sustainability of urban communities.

“We collaborate with public and private sectors on turfgrass research and development, and it’s just one way that we’re advancing science to promote sustainable urban living,” she said. “As the new assistant director, I am excited to work with research and extension faculty at the center to help address more of these priorities across a diverse range of scientific disciplines for industry professionals and communities.”

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