AMES, Iowa – The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture has awarded grants to 24 innovative research and demonstration projects that will help Iowa farmers improve soil health, take advantage of opportunities related to local foods and fine-tune alternative practices that protect the environment while using fewer outside inputs.
The projects fall under all four of the Leopold Center’s initiatives – Ecology, Marketing and Food Systems, Policy and Cross-Cutting. [See list of new projects below]
“This year’s grants represent a broad array of science-based projects that will continue to build the sustainability of Iowa’s agriculture and food systems,” said Leopold Center director Mark Rasmussen.
All grants are for one year, totaling $731,817. 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 investment in research on agricultural alternatives to nearly $1.16 million.
In the Ecology Initiative, nine new grants totaling $298,570 will focus on cover crops, soil health and conservation buffers. Iowa Learning Farms will continue to collect soil quality and yield data from seven farmer-partners who have planted cover crops the past five years. The Iowa Water Center will use existing data to quantify soil erosion and its economic value for all of Iowa’s 1,616 HUC 12 (hydrologic unit code) watersheds.
Other projects in the Ecology Initiative will look at the role of a variety of cover crops in vegetable cropping systems, adoption of cover crops by corn and soybean farmers, how soil has changed in 13-year-old riparian buffers, the effectiveness of saturated buffers, and how underground microbes contribute to accumulation of organic matter in soil.
Seven new projects in the Marketing and Food Systems Initiative are receiving $160,906 in competitive grant funding. Three new projects support creation of food hubs that will aggregate and/or process food for larger markets in the Cedar Valley, Allamakee and Winneshiek counties in northeast Iowa and the Iowa Valley corridor in eastern Iowa. Two projects address growing interest in urban agriculture, including development of a toolkit for regional planners and an assessment of opportunities in Des Moines.
Two other grants will allow investigators to continue collecting benchmark data from Iowa fruit and vegetable farmers related to crop insurance options, and foster development of a small-farm business incubator for recent immigrants living in Des Moines.
The Policy Initiative is supporting two new projects at a cost of $56,121. Investigators will develop a guide for city zoning issues related to local foods. The Drake University Agricultural Law Center will produce a model “Legacy Report” that outlines management options for farmland undergoing generational changes in ownership, which is expected to peak in coming years.
Six projects in the Cross-Cutting Initiative are receiving $216,220 in competitive grant funding. Topics include research on food safety in aquaponics systems, winter canola, and capturing experienced producer knowledge about growing small grains such as barley, oats, barley and triticale. New competitive grants also allow investigators to continue ongoing research on diversified crop rotations, organic practices, and development of a sustainable source of biomass for renewable energy production at the University of Iowa.
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 24 new competitive grants.
Leopold Center 2014 New Competitive Grants
[click on grant title to go to grant description]
- Covering the ground: A transformative approach to scientific learning for greater cover crop adoption in Iowa
- Determining threshold responses of plant-soil feedbacks to nitrogen deposition
- Economic impacts of soil erosion in Iowa
- Management and performance of Iowa cover crops
- Quantifying nitrogen credits and impacts of cover crops on soil biology and health in vegetable cropping systems in Iowa
- Quantifying the effects of alternative surface inlet protection strategies on water quality
- A smartphone-based device for measuring soil organic matter
- Soil health and productivity in riparian grass buffers: A re-evaluation after 13 years
- Understanding microbial contributions to soil aggregation and organic matter accumulation
MARKETING AND FOOD SYSTEMS INITIATIVE
- Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit
- Increasing the capacity of a local food hub to service the public school market
- Insurance benchmarking for Iowa fruit and vegetable producers, Year 2
- Market development and logistics for local food distribution in the Cedar Valley
- Planning grant for the establishment of a food enterprise center
- Small-farm business development incubator for refugee farmers
- Using spatially explicit supply/demand and local participants’ perspectives to integrate urban agriculture with community planning
- Reducing local regulatory barriers to local foods: Municipal Zoning for Local Foods in Iowa Guidebook
- Sustainable Agricultural Land Tenure: The legal rights and duties of entity ownership of Iowa farm land and the next generation of landowners
- Capturing indigenous knowledge of small grain production
- Food safety, economics and environmental impacts of aquaponics in Iowa
- Impacts of conventional and diversified rotation systems on crop yields, soil functions and environmental quality: Stage II/Year 2
- Linking soil and water quality with crop performance across a continuum of tillage and management strategies: Enhancing sustainability through soil-health-promoting practices
- Suitability of winter canola for enhancing summer annual crop rotations in Iowa
The University of Iowa Biomass Energy Sustainability Index: A decision-making tool for the University of Iowa Biomass Partnership Project
Mark Rasmussen, Director, (515) 294-3711, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeri Neal, Ecology Initiative, (515) 294‐5610, email@example.com
Craig Chase, Marketing and Food Systems Initiative, (515) 294‐1854, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Adams, Policy Initiative, (515) 294‐5832, email@example.com
Malcolm Robertson, Cross‐Cutting Initiative, (515) 294‐1166, firstname.lastname@example.org
Laura Miller, Communications, (515) 294-5272, email@example.com