Panhandle Appointments

New Faces in Panhandle Extension

Recent faculty and staff appointments at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center and Panhandle Extension District

Water and irrigation management specialist

Dr. Xin Qiao will join the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center May 1 as water and irrigation management specialist.

Qiao’s appointment was announced by Dr. Jack Whittier, Research and Extension Director at the Panhandle Center. He will replace Amir Haghverdi, who left for a position in California in 2015.

Qiao will be responsible for finding new methods and improving existing methods of irrigation to help irrigators manage and conserve limited water in the unique cropping systems in western Nebraska. A key element will be to develop adaptive management practices that producers could utilize to respond to environmental, crop and soil conditions to improve water management and meet regulatory goals. His assignment will be 50 percent research and 50 percent extension.

As part of a multidisciplinary team at the Panhandle Center, Qiao will partner with other UNL faculty and various organizations, agencies and advisory groups.

Whittier stated, “We are excited to have Xin join our team here at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center. The irrigation position has essentially been vacant for five years since the passing of Dean Yonts. Filling this position brings our faculty back to full strength. We are thrilled to have our team of specialists back together to address cropping issues in the Panhandle for the benefit of the agriculture industry, which is so important to the local economy. I believe it also demonstrates the commitment of University of Nebraska administration in Lincoln to the needs of western Nebraska.” 

Qiao stated, “There are a lot of advanced concepts and technologies available for irrigation management. My research goal will be exploring and developing advanced technologies such as sensor-based irrigation, modeling, and remote sensing to improve water use efficiency of current cropping systems.

“On the extension side, I am excited to learn systems that are already used in Nebraska and tailor these technologies to local needs,” he said. “I believe research and extension should support each other, while research provides scientific basis and extension activities drive the need for research. I look forward to working with local farmers, stakeholders, as well as fellow scientists to better manage water resources in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner.”

Xin received his bachelor of science degree in 2009 from South China University of Technology in water and wastewater engineering. He then moved to Clemson University for his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural and environmental engineering. He completed his Ph.D. in 2015 and is currently finishing a post-doctoral program, also at Clemson. 

Xin has been located at the off-campus Edisto Research and Education Center at Blackville, S.C., for his Ph.D. and post-doctoral training.

Whittier adds, “My first objective, as director, when Xin arrives will be to get him connected with growers, agricultural support industries and organizations in the Panhandle. We will also visit county extension offices where Xin can become familiar with our team of fine extension educators in the Panhandle.”

Chelsea Altena, Morrill County 4-H coordinator

Posted Feb. 13, 2017

Chelsea Altena has been appointed 4-H coordinator in the Morrill County Extension Office in Bridgeport. Her appointment was announced by Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator and Unit Leader for the Morrill and Scotts Bluff County Extension offices. She began her duties Feb. 1.

Chelsea Altena
Chelsea Altena

Altena’s responsibilities will include promoting and supporting the 4-H program in Morrill County, working with other 4-H staff in planning and implementation. She will provide support to clubs, leaders and members, coordinate special events, and other activities.

Altena is originally from Hyannis, where she attended school and graduated from Hyannis High School. She attended the Nebraska College or Technical Agriculture at Curtis, graduating with degrees in animal production science, livestock management and equine management, and as veterinary tech, as well as a minor in agribusiness. She served a veterinary technician internship at Medicine Valley Veterinary Hospital while in college, and worked at the hospital full-time after graduating in 2015. In May of 2016 she went to work for the Keith-Arthur Extension office as the office manager and 4-H assistant. She is engaged to Jordan Sterkel of Bridgeport, and lives north of Angora.

Jack Arterburn, Extension Educator in Northern Panhandle

Jack Arterburn has been appointed Extension Educator for beef systems for the northern Panhandle.

Jack Arterburn
Jack Arterburn

His appointment was announced by Dr. Jack Whittier, Director of Research and Extension for the Panhandle. He began his duties Aug. 29, based at the Nebraska Extension Office in Rushville.

Arterburn will be responsible for Extension beef systems programming primarily in the northern Panhandle counties of Sioux, Dawes, Box Butte, and Sheridan. He also will design, develop, deliver and evaluate programs for statewide Extension education programs in beef systems. He will work in a multi-disciplinary team of Extension professionals and other partners.

Extension’s program for beef and grassland systems focuses on improved profitability and sustainability; animal care to improve health, well-being and product quality; enhanced resiliency of beef businesses; and expanded consumer and youth awareness.

“We are very pleased to welcome Jack to the Panhandle District,” Whittier said. “He brings a great deal of talent in range and livestock management. This is very important to the western Sandhills area where he is located. We are delighted that we can maintain a strong Nebraska Extension emphasis in this part of the state.”

Arterburn received a master of science degree in natural resources sciences from UNL in August, with a specialization in applied ecology. His research focused on rangeland ecology and management. His bachelor’s degree also is from UNL, in fisheries and wildlife in 2014. He has been working as a graduate research assistance since 2014, directing research, collecting data, and teaching. He also has experience as a conservation technician with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and as a farm employee; at the Cow-Calf Unit at UNL’s Agricultural Research and Development Center near Mead; and as a bank specialist. He is a Sidney native and graduate of Sidney High School.

He will collaborate with educators in Sioux, Dawes and Box Butte counties, as well as with Extension personnel throughout the Panhandle District and statewide.

Bijesh Maharjan, Soils-Nutrient Management Specialist

Posted August 16, 2016

Dr. Bijesh Maharjan will join the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center Sept. 6 as soil and nutrient management specialist.

Dr. Bijesh Maharjan
Dr. Bijesh Maharjan

Maharjan’s appointment was announced by Dr. Jack Whittier, Research and Extension Director at the Panhandle R&E Center. He will replace Gary Hergert, who retired in 2015.

Maharjan will be responsible for conducting research and extension programs focused on improved soil productivity and precision nutrient management in irrigated, limited-irrigation and rain-fed crop and forage production systems in the Panhandle.

The overall objective of his programs will be to help develop and continue cost-effective, efficient and sustainable production systems that optimize profitability, along with improving soil productivity, nutrient utilization, improved nutrient management and variable rate nutrient application.

As part of a multidisciplinary team at the Panhandle Center, he will partner with other UNL faculty and various organizations, agencies and advisory groups.

Whittier stated, “One of the great opportunities I have had since joining the Panhandle R&E District is to participate in hiring some great new faculty. The addition of Bijesh to our team is a real home run. Bijesh brings expertise and energy that will complement our already strong team of specialists to address research and extension needs in the Nebraska Panhandle. We are excited to have him here.”

Maharjan said, “I am looking forward to meeting and working together with and for the community of Nebraska’s Panhandle and beyond. I intend to blend conventional methods and modern technologies in my research program to tackle soil fertility and water management issues in Panhandle region. I will soon visit the community, growers, industries and other stakeholders to learn more about the region and the areas where we can collaborate and my expertise will be useful.”

For almost three years, Maharjan has been a postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture in UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, where he has been working in several collaborative soil-fertility related projects, including one in managing in-season crop stress using remote-sensing technologies.

He received a Ph.D. in Land and Atmospheric Science (soil science track) in December 2013 from the University of Minnesota. His dissertation topic was corn production and environmental implications under varying nitrogen and management practices. His master’s degree in environmental engineering was earned in 2008 from the University of North Dakota.