High Plains Ag Lab -- Sidney, NE


Wheat plot tour at High Plains Ag Lab

Photos from Field Days

Ag Statistics

Annual Research Reports

High Plains Ag Lab Newsletters

HPAL building named for Charles Fenster

Naming of Charles Fenster building

Posing with the new sign at the Charles R. Fenster Building are Charlie Fenster (immediately to the right of the sign) along with (from left) Jack Whittier, director of the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center; Gary Hergert, UNL soils specialist who was interim director at the Panhandle Center when the new building was dedicated; Cody Creech, current dryland cropping systems specialist at the Panhandle Center; Dipak Santra, faculty supervisor of High Plains Ag Lab and alternative crops breeder for UNL; Gary Peterson, retired soils specialist at Colorado State University of collaborated with Fenster on research at HPAL for many years; and Keith Rexroth of Sidney, chair of the building committee and High Plains Ag Lab Advisory Committee.

The new headquarters building at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's High Plains Agricultural Lab (HPAL) north of Sidney was named for Charles R. Fenster of Gering prior to the Aug. 11, 2015, annual field day, in recognition of Fenster's lifetime work as a pioneering UNL cropping systems specialist who worked at HPAL for many years.

About 140 people attended dinner and the building naming ceremony. Fenster's contributions to agriculture and conservation were saluted by several speakers, including Jack Whittier, director of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center, the administrative unit to which HPAL belongs; Keith Rexroth of Sidney, chair of the building committee and HPAL advisory committee. Representing UNL administration were Hector Santiago, Assistant Dean and Assistant Director of the IANR Agricultural Research Division; and Josh Egley, Director of Development at IANR for the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Fenster's daughter Kay Dubois and son Larry Fenster also added personal memories before Fenster himself addressed the group. Fenster recalled how his life and career led him to work in dryland crop research in western Nebraska. He noted changes in agriculture over the decades and spoke about the importance of continuing research for the future of ag in the High Plains.

Ribbon cutting for the new building was held in 2014. It was constructed with help from a fund-raising campaign begun in 2012 and supported by numerous individuals, foundations, and agricultural businesses.

The 2,800-square-foot building provides new offices for permanent staff; work stations for students or visiting scientists; a conference room; and space for seed and plant material handling. HPAL will continue to use part of the former headquarters, an original 1940s-era structure that was part of the Sioux Army Ordnance Depot when the U.S. government gave the property to the university in 1970.

Read a profile of Charlie Fenster and his work at HPAL

HPAL mission

The High Plains Ag Lab (HPAL) is a satellite unit of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff. Our mission is to improve the profitability of dryland crop and livestock production through applied research responsive to the needs of local producers.

  • Address: 3257 RD 109, Sidney, NE 69162.
  • Phone: 308-254-3918
  • Directions: Six miles northwest of Sidney, NE, in the heart of western Nebraska's major dryland crop production area. View a map.
Research Capacity

Total acreage: the HPAL covers 2,400 acres, one-third in dryland crop rotations and two-thirds in pasture.


Fifty to 60 research trials are conducted each year by scientists based at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center as well as University of Nebraska-Lincoln and neighboring states. Expertise includes agronomy; plant breeding, physiology, and pathology; soil fertility; irrigation; entomology; weed science; marketing and economics; and livestock nutrition.

Administration and Staff

Panhandle Research and Extension Director: Dr. Jack Whittier
Ag Lab Supervisor: Dr. Dipak Santra
Farm Manager: Mr. Rob Higgins
Advisory Board Chairman: Keith Rexroth, Farmer, Sidney,  NE

Paul McMillen, Animal Science Technician
Vernon Florke, Alternative Crop Breeding Technician

High Plains Ag Lab

Crop Research

Crop rotation systems: Research crops are produced on 27 fields ranging in size from 22 to 36 acres. View a 2009 map of research plots. Seven different crop rotations range in length from two to six years. Various cropping system components are represented: summer fallow, no-fallow, minimum tillage and no-tillage. These systems allow research with the same crops and rotations used by our clientele. In 2006, 75 acres were certified for organic production.

Irrigated plots: A 15-acre, lateral-move irrigation system enables scientists to simulate different precipitation patterns.

Long-Term Tillage Plots: Established in 1970 to compare moldboard plow, sub-tillage, and no-tillage fallow systems on winter wheat and soil parameters. A native sod treatment has been maintained.

Grain dryer and storage: A continuous flow dryer and grain storage system allow direct harvest of proso millet and emerging alternative crops with a stripper header.

High Plains Ag Lab

High Plains Ag Lab

Livestock Research

Nine pastures: Cattle graze crested wheatgrass pastures to assess supplementation, feed additives or health measurements on performance.