Dr. Ambika Chandra understands the plight of both golf course superintendents and weather forecasters from her home base in Dallas. As a professor at Texas A&M, Chandra’s primary responsibilities are the research and development of turfgrass species for home lawns, athletic fields and golf courses, with an eye toward improved sustainability and stress tolerance.
“It didn’t take long to realize that this work just doesn’t stay in the laboratory, in the greenhouse or in research papers, but it affects the real world,” said Chandra. “The producer and consumer are super impacted by this work. That’s what makes it so challenging and satisfying at the same time.”
Chandra is an expert in plant breeding and genetics with an emphasis on turfgrass via her first post-graduate studies at Penn State and her continued work with more than 800 research specimens at Texas A&M’s AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Dallas. Warm-weather grasses such as Zoysia and St. Augustine have become more tolerant to cold, and new strains have been developed that require smaller amounts of water, pesticides and fertilizer.
“Having less dependency on the environment is vital,” Chandra said. “That’s how the breeding program addresses this challenge.”
With an eye toward the future of the game, Dr. Chandra is at the forefront of the effort to continually improve the way that golf interacts with the environment. “We are developing more resources and looking forward to more research in drought resistance and conservation, two directives we have to work on to keep the industry viable,” she said.
Dr. Chandra’s turfgrass research received a USGA grant as part of the $1.8 million distributed in 2021 via the Mike Davis Program for Advancing Golf Course Management. The USGA has invested more than $45 million in the program to date, with a 20-plus percent decrease in water usage and nearly 40 percent decrease in nutrient usage the last decade.