Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University was created in 1987 as part of the Iowa Groundwater Protection Act. The goals of the Center have been to identify and develop new ways to farm profitably while conserving natural resources as well as reducing negative environmental and social impacts. 

The Center is named for Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), a native of Burlington, Iowa, known internationally as a conservationist, ecologist, and educator. He saw the need for development of a land ethic, outlined in his 1949 book of essays, A Sand County Almanac.

Stephen J. Dinsmore is the Leopold Center's interim director.  A 17-member Advisory Board advises the director on policies, budget and program review.

Completed Grants The Leopold Center's full set of grant reports have now been summarized and posted to the ISU Library’s digital repository at https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/leopold_grantreports/

Leopold Center News

Three men with coniferous tree.
December 2, 2022

A virtual field day will highlight saturated riparian forest buffer research at Iowa State University on Dec. 15 at 1 p.m. CST. The free event will feature a live discussion with Billy Beck, assistant professor and extension forestry specialist, Troy Heeren, agricultural specialist, Gabe Johnson, Ph.D. graduate research assistant in sustainable agriculture and agricultural and biosystems engineering, and Jonathan Notch, forestry undergraduate student. Attendees will have a chance to view the recently established saturated buffer forest buffer site funded by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Find more details and registration information at: https://www.extension.iastate.edu/news/virtual-field-day-establishing-saturated-riparian-forest-buffers-landscape.

Young man with glasses outdoors standing in front of garden, field
September 22, 2022


Mark Quee on the Scattergood School
farm. Photo by Jennie Schmidt.

Monarch butterfly on blooming plant.
August 9, 2022

AMES, Iowa — The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s 2021 annual report, released this week, is available online to read or download at: https://www.leopold.iastate.edu/files/page/files/leopoldannualreport_2021_final.pdf.

May 10, 2022

AMES, Iowa — The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is pleased to announce a request for nominations for the Spencer Award, which honors deserving Iowans working for a more environmentally sound agriculture.  The purpose of the Spencer Award is to recognize significant contributions to the advancement of ecological and economic practices that will make agriculture more sustainable and the family farm secure for the future. The Spencer family established the award in 2001 through an endowment, which will provide $2,000 in cash prize funding in 2022. Review the 2022 Spencer Award Nomination Form for additional details.

Of Interest

A research article, The role of ruminants in reducing agriculture's carbon footprint in North America," coauthored by Mark Rasmussen, has been selected by the board of the Soil and Water Conservation Society as the 2021 recipient of the Best Research Paper for Impact and Quality Honorable Mention in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. The award, which  recognizes the impact and quality of a research paper published in the journal in the previous five years, will be recognized virtually during the 76th SWCS International Annual Conference in July 2021.  

Mark Rasmussen shares comments about Paul Johnson's legacy in the article, "Remembering Two Giants of Iowa Agriculture," by Gene Lucht in Iowa Farmer Today, Feb. 25, 2021. 

Jazlyn Beeck, a junior in geology at Iowa State, won best undergraduate poster for "Pedogenic carbonate concretions in Iowa's Loess soils: A modern carbon sink?" at the 2020 Geological Society of America's North Central meeting, where she presented a lightning talk on the same topic. Her co-authors included LCSA Director Mark Rasmussen. 

10-year field-scale study on the effects of winter rye cover crops on corn and soybean yields showed no significant impacts on cash crop yields attributable to cover crop use. The study by Iowa Learning Farms and Practical Farmers of Iowa was supported by state funders and LCSA.  

New research shows integrated organic crop and livestock production systems can conform to food safety standards. In-kind support from the Leopold Center provided student assistance for the research, led by Kathleen Delate, professor of horticulture and agronomy at Iowa State, and Angela Shaw, associate professor of food science and huan nutrition at ISU. 

Findings of LCSA-supported research on the "effect of social cohesion and social networks on perceptions of food availability among low-income consumers" are published in the "Journal of Business Research," January 2020.