Cross-Cutting Initiative

Initiative coordinator: Malcolm Robertson, (515) 294-1166,

Current Grants

Completed grants are housed in the ISU Digital Repository


As we enter this era of new agriculture, research issues and solutions for problems have become more complex and difficult to understand. The Cross-Cutting Initiative uses a systems approach and multiple research areas including water, energy, soil and alternative farming systems to balance competing and complementary goals of ecosystem health, productivity, economic and social well-being.


  • conduct research and support education and outreach
  • increase the adoption of practices that satisfy needs for crops and livestock (feed, food and bioenergy)
  • protect the environment
  • improve agriculture's economic viability.


  • Assessment of agro-systems beyond yield, by incorporating economics, environmental, policy and social aspects in research and outreach programs
  • Increased knowledge of mechanisms that regulate processes within farms, fields and communities to optimize management using a multi-disciplinary research approach
  • Identification of trade-offs and synergies among various farming options while quantifying the effects that these options have on soil, land, watersheds and communities. This is a comparative farming system research approach.

HORT class high tunnel

Horticulture Enterprise Management Class

The production of local fruit and vegetables is a rapidly expanding segment of Iowan agriculture. The ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’  

HORT 465 class focuses on educating and training future growers in the management and operation of diversified horticultural enterprises’ on an Iowa farm situation. Malcolm Robertson, Cross-Cutting Initiative coordinator, developed materials for this course and served as the lead instructor from 2011-2013.

The on-farm learning gives students hands on experience in horticultural enterprise planning, crop production and practical implementation of the decisions made by the class. Students perform the management of finances, production, and marketing. The course is structured as a business and is guided by decisions made by five student committees (finance, operations, production, and marketing), which are overseen by a business committee. Each committee investigates the feasibility of a desired enterprise according to the demands of their respective areas before coming together under the direction of the business committee to make a final decision.

HORT class crop rows

Order food grown by ISU students

A special Leopold Center project grant was used to set up an online ordering system to sell produce generated as part of this class.