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.

Mark Rasmussen is the Leopold Center director.  A 17-member Advisory Board advises the director on policies, budget and program review.

 Completed Grants

Leopold Center News

2019 Leopold Center Annual Report cover
May 15, 2020

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s 2019 annual report is now online, with an emphasis on LCSA partnerships with Whiterock Conservancy, the Leopold Landscape Alliance, Iowa Learning Farms and others. It includes research reports on calcium carbonate nodule formation in Iowa’s loess soils and the effects of grazing system on methane emissions in pastures by Jim Russell, animal science professor emeritus. It also includes articles about Spencer Award winner and farmer Paul Mugge and sustainability scholarships provided to Iowa undergraduates. Read or download the report.

May 8, 2020

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture's Advisory Board meeting, scheduled for June 11, 2020, has been canceled due to the ongoing situation related to COVID-19.  

March 26, 2020

In an Iowa Learning Farms webinar, March 25, 2020, Mark Rasmussen, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture Director, discusses, "Carbonate, the Other Soil Carbon," sharing research on calcium carbonate and its role in carbon storage in soils in Iowa and the Midwest. He describes how calcium carbonate is formed, shares information on its distribution and discusses its importance as one of the largest reservoirs of carbon on the planet. 

March 11, 2020

The 2020 Shivvers Memorial Lecture, scheduled for March 27, has been canceled. The presentation, "Eating Tomorrow: Climate Change and the Battle for the Future of Food," by Timothy A. Wise, director of the Land and Food Rights program at Small Planet Institute, may be rescheduled at another date. (Note: All Iowa State University lectures have been canceled from March 23 through April 10, 2020.)  

Of Interest

Jazlyn Beeck, a junior majoring in Geology at Iowa State University, presented the lightning talk, "Pedogenic carbonate concretions in Iowa's Loess soils: A modern carbon sink?" at the May 2020 North Central meeting of the Geological Society of America. Beeck's co-authors included LCSA Director Mark Rasmussen. Read more.

Listen in as  KQLX-AM Farm Talk Podcast host Mike Kjar talks with Mark Rasmussen about the Leopold Center for a stewardship Wednesday interview, May 20, 2020.

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.  

In the article, "Leopold Center Helping Iowa," in Wallace's Farmer, Dec. 20, 2019, LCSA Director Mark Rasmussen discusses current activities of the center and ongoing work to fulfill its mission. 

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 issue.