Surenda Dara, a University of California Cooperative Extension advisor with more than 25 years of experience in research and extension, has been selected to lead Oregon State University’s North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora. He will start Jan. 18.

He will replace Mike Bondi, who has retired after almost 44 years with Oregon State, the last 10 of which he led the center.

Dara joins NWREC from the University of California Cooperative Extension in San Louis Obispo. He brings expertise in integrated pest management, microbial control, biostimulants and biological soil amendments. He has been recognized for his development of innovative solutions in sustainable crop production and protection.

“We are excited to have Surendra join the team and take on the leadership role at one of the most agriculturally diverse experiment stations in the state,” said Alan Sams, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and director of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station. “His expertise in innovative agricultural production and his passion for connecting with people from all backgrounds is critical to a region that relies on agricultural production for its economic and social vitality.”

Nearly 40% of the $5.7 billion farmgate value – meaning market value of the product minus the cost to sell, such as transport and marketing – of Oregon agriculture is produced within a 50-mile radius of NWREC.

Researchers and extension faculty at the station focus on some of Oregon’s most important local agricultural crops including: greenhouse and nursery plants, hazelnuts, berries, vegetables and specialty seed production, Christmas trees, orchard crops and field and grass crops. In addition, four other programs at the center cut across these crop systems—small farms production, organic production, pesticide research and agrivoltaics.

“Research stations play a critical role in the local economy and how we contribute to the success of sustainable agriculture,” Dara said. “The densely diverse agricultural production and proximity to an urban center make this station such a unique place to contribute to science and community. So much about this position, the station, and the college align with my values and goals. I am eager to get started and take this opportunity to make a meaningful difference.”

In addition to his scientific and community contributions, Dara is also a poet, writer, and lyricist in his native language, Telugu, and a stand-up comedian.

Bondi joined Oregon State University in 1978 and served as an Extension forestry agent on the North Oregon Coast (Clatsop and Tillamook Counties) until 1985. At that time, he transferred to Clackamas County where he worked with private woodland owners and Christmas tree growers for more than 25 years. 

He is best known for establishing the Clackamas Tree School, creating the 140-acre Hopkins Demonstration Forest and managing a unique international forestry education tour program for more than two decades.

“I really do like working with farmers—very salt of the earth people. I appreciate their values, hard work, and independence,” Bondi told faculty research assistant Maria Marlin in “Down on the Farm,” the North Willamette Research Center newsletter, when discussing his retirement.  “The idea is about getting more crop from every drop or every input.  This is our challenge. These days, the technology focus is about keeping farming both sustainable and profitable.”