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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

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February 16, 2024

Award-winning researcher, educator and author John Reganold, Regents Professor of Soil Science and Agroecology at the Washington State University, will present the 2024 Shivvers Lecture on March 18, at 7:30 p.m., in Room 2226 Bessey Hall, 2200 Osborn Drive, on the Iowa State University campus.

The Shivvers Memorial Lecture—focused on issues of sustainability, agriculture and the food system—has been presented by the LCSA at Iowa State University since 1969 in honor of John Shivvers, who farmed near Knoxville, Iowa, with support from the Shivvers Family.

Shorebirds in wetlands in farm landscape
August 18, 2023

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s invites you to review its new 2022 annual report, available online. 

July 20, 2023

AMES, Iowa — The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture requests nominations for the 2023 Spencer Award, which honors deserving Iowans working for a more environmentally sound agriculture. Nominations for the award are due by Aug. 25, 2023.

Young woman smiling, in black top with dark hair
March 21, 2023

AMES, Iowa — Author Hannah Lewis will present the 2023 Shivvers Memorial Lecture, Thursday, April 6 at 5:30 p.m., in the Iowa State University Memorial Union, room 3580. The event is free and open to the public.

Lewis, an Iowa State alumna, is the author of “Mini-Forest Revolution: Using the Miyawaki Method to Rapidly Rewild the World.” The 2022 book, with a foreword by well-known environmentalist Paul Hawken, promotes an international movement to restore biodiversity by transforming empty lots, backyards and degraded land into “mini-forests.”

View the recording from this event

Of Interest

Findings from a Leopold Center-supported grant were reported in the article Cover crop mixtures versus single species: Water quality and cash crop yield by Emily Waring, Mark Licht, Elizabeth Ripley, Ann Staudt, Sara Carlson and Matthew Helmers, published in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation (December 2022). 

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.  

A research article, The role of ruminants in reducing agriculture's carbon footprint in North America," coauthored by Mark Rasmussen, was 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.  

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. 

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.