Leopold Center awards 2014 research grants

Thursday, January 23, 2014

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]






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