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From Nepal to Nebraska, graduate student's passions rooted in soil

Meet Dinesh Panday, a doctoral student in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture focusing on soil and nitrogen management.

“I’m from Nepal, a country where agriculture is the main driver of the economy and more than 67 percent of total population is involved in it,” said Panday. “My extended family’s livelihood is dependent upon soil-based agriculture, so my passions are strongly rooted in the field of soil and nutrient management.”

After completing his bachelor’s degree in agriculture (major: soil science) from Tribhuvan University, Nepal and his master’s degree in environmental sciences (major: soil science) from Lincoln University of Missouri, he landed in Nebraska for his doctoral work.

“I knew about the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before I came to the U.S. for my MS program due to its excellence in agricultural research. Soil and nutrient management research focused on precision agriculture and cropping systems in dryland and irrigated fields drew me to apply, and finally I joined UNL for PhD program in 2016,” said Panday.

“I have found that the relationships between faculty/staff and students as well as among students are very friendly in our department,” he added. “When I came first to UNL, the Agronomy and Horticulture Graduate Student Association provided a graduate student mentor to facilitate my enrollment, which I really appreciated.”

Currently, he studies and conducts research under the supervision of Drs. Bijesh Maharjan, as his major advisor, and Richard Ferguson, as his co-advisor. His work aims to determine the effectiveness of high carbon char in reducing environmental nitrogen loss and improving nitrogen fertilizer use efficiency in fertilized soils in semi-arid western Nebraska. Additionally, he is using active and passive sensors to detect corn nitrogen stress, predict grain yield, determine in-season and additional side-dress application of nitrogen fertilizer, and reduce environmental impacts.

Panday believes that thinking about youth, farming and food raises fundamental questions both about the future of rural youth and of agriculture itself. 

“I think there is decreasing interest among people of my generation in farming…that agriculture is perceived as an ‘outdated occupation,’” said Panday. “Yet the resulting questions are obvious: who will feed the future generations and who will help to manage our natural resources?”

After completing his doctorate at Nebraska, all his efforts will be focused on making a positive impact in global agriculture through serving the “soils” to alleviate the ever-increasing global food insecurity against the challenges of climate change.

During his time at the university, he has received several honors, including a second place finish in the graduate poster competition at the 2017 CSSA-ASA-SSSA tri-society annual meeting, in Tampa, Florida. Recently, he was awarded a Milton E. Mohr 2018–2019 Fellowship for Biotechnology. In addition to his graduate studies, he serves as a reviewer for several journals (PLoS ONE, PeerJ, Journal of Agricultural Science, Soil Science Society of America, Journal of Soil and Water Conservation). He also serves as managing editor of the Journal of Maize Research and Development.

Apart from his scholarly activities, he works as a communications officer at YPARD (Young Professionals for Agricultural Development) for the Asia and Pacific region. YPARD is an international movement by young professionals for young professionals for agricultural development. This global on- and off-line communication and discussion platform is meant to enable young professionals all over the world to realize their full potential and contribute towards innovative agricultural development. Earlier, he served as YPARD Nepal country representative for five years.

“Last but not least, I am highly thankful to my academic advisor for everything—the advice, guidance, and thoughts on my life,” said Panday. “I am truly enjoying my time at UNL!”


Find the original post on the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources website.

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