Please tell us about yourself
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.”
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?
If you asked kids where their food comes from, most of them will say “the supermarket”. However, I grew up in family with a long history in agriculture. My parents and grandparents, who are still engaged in both subsistence and commercial farming, introduced me to this art and science of survival since my childhood.
Nepalese agriculture is bestowed with tremendous potential in terms of climatic niches and biodiversity. But the paradox is that we have not yet been able to harness the potential. Various factors hinder agricultural productivity including high level of damages that are caused by soil erosion, poor soil nutrient management, lack of advance technologies, etc. Realizing this fact, my interest diverted towards sustainable soil management.
Out of my own volition, at initial stage, I gained profound knowledge on soil sampling and diagnosed soil horizons from these two major activities;
first– “3 days Soil Testing Campaign” – As Program Coordinator in Chitwan district and
second– Volunteered for 10 days in “National Land Resource Use Survey” in Nawalparasi district, Nepal in 2012.
What did you study?
I hold a BS in Agriculture (Soil Science) from Tribhuvan University, Nepal, and MS Environmental Sciences (Soil Science) from Lincoln University of Missouri, United States.
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.”
What do you do?
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.
How does your work benefit the community?
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?”
What are your future plans?
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.