Leopold Center awards 2015 research grants

Thursday, January 22, 2015

AMES, Iowa – The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture has awarded grants to 17 innovative research and demonstration projects that promise to move agricultural production toward greater sustainability while improving Iowa’s soil and water resources.

The research will provide new knowledge on soil health, specifically how phosphorus moves under different cropping systems and how certain changes deep below the surface (given the prevalence of minimum-tillage systems) could make soils more resilient during drought or after heavy rainfall. Other projects explore alternative systems for biomass production, growing fruits and vegetables, or providing habitat for native pollinators.

The 17 new grants, totaling $1,031,853, fall under all four of the Leopold Center’s research initiatives – Ecology, Marketing and Food Systems, Policy and Cross-Cutting. [See list of new projects below.]

“Natural systems are highly complex and diverse, and these projects will help us better understand this diversity so that we can use some of those principles to improve agricultural production and our food system in Iowa,” said Leopold Center director Mark Rasmussen.

The grants vary in length; four projects are for one year, 12 will be done over two years and three projects are for three years. In addition to the new projects, work will continue on a number of other multi-year projects already in progress and supported by the Leopold Center’s long-running competitive grants program. The new grants bring the Leopold Center’s current-year research commitments to $1.3 million.

The Ecology Initiative is funding the soil health projects – on phosphorus movement and changes in deep soil – and three other new projects for a total cost of $371,125. Two grants will focus on prairies: the University of Northern Iowa’s Tallgrass Prairie Center will create a community of practice for prairie establishment and management, and an ISU research team will collect bird and pollinator data from established prairie STRIPS on private farms. Another project will study how landscape diversity affects native pollinators.

Five new projects in the Marketing and Food Systems Initiative are receiving $226,049 in competitive grant funding. The ISU Community Design Lab will expand its successful Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit from three to six Iowa communities, and Global Greens Farm in Des Moines will offer a small-farm business incubator for recent immigrants. Other projects look at supply chain logistics, institutional markets, and working with nontraditional retailers to sell local food items.

The Policy Initiative is supporting two new projects at a cost of $84,500. Investigators will develop a guide for county zoning issues related to local foods (a 2014 project examined municipal zoning issues). The Drake University Agricultural Law Center grant will help host four regional workshops and a two-day conference on conservation policy in Iowa.

Five projects in the Cross-Cutting Initiative are receiving $350,179 in competitive grant funding. Topics include organic dairies, extended rotations, tillage management in organic systems, long-term sustainability of growing miscanthus for biomass, and grazing systems for beef cattle.

Descriptions of the work, who will be conducting each project and other details are available on the Leopold Center website at: http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/grants/current. Below is a list of the 17 new competitive grants.

Leopold Center 2015 New Competitive Grants

[click on grant title to go to grant description]






Mark Rasmussen, Director, (515) 294-3711, markras@iastate.edu

Jeri Neal, Ecology Initiative, (515) 294‐5610, wink@iastate.edu

Craig Chase, Marketing and Food Systems Initiative, (515) 294‐1854, cchase@iastate.edu

Mary Adams, Policy Initiative, (515) 294‐5832, madams@iastate.edu

Malcolm Robertson, Cross‐Cutting Initiative, (515) 294‐1166, malcolmr@iastate.edu

Laura Miller, Communications, (515) 294-5272, lwmiller@iastate.edu