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

November 19, 2021

The public is invited to a special event in honor of the memory and legacy of Iowa conservation leader Paul W. Johnson. Presenters will include Senator Tom Harkin. 

Family, friends and colleagues of Paul W. Johnson (1941-2021) have come together to honor Paul and his work to advance a private land ethic as part of policy, practice, research and education. A private land ethic builds upon the work of Aldo Leopold and other environmentalists, with a specific focus upon the role of private lands directed to agriculture in supporting that ethic.

Register for the Paul W, Johnson Legacy Launch.  After registering, you will receive a confirmation email about joining the meeting.

Headshot of Stephen J. Dinsmore
June 18, 2021

Professor Stephen J. Dinsmore, chair of the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University, has been named interim director for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, effective July 1, 2021. He will take over when current director Mark Rasmussen retires June 30.

June 18, 2021

AMES, Iowa –  Iowa Learning Farms is “looking back to look ahead” through a webinar June 23 at noon that focuses on the history and progress of sustainability titled “Lessons Learned from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.” 

Read the related blog post by Iowa Learning Farms or listen to the webinar recording

Map of U.S. shows study locations in the Midwest Corn Belt.
June 15, 2021

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) has awarded a $2,044,214 grant to Iowa State University researchers led by associate professor Sotirios Archontoulis, agronomy, which will evaluate how maize breeding, field management and environment affect sustainable corn production. Additional support from partners including Iowa State University, Bayer Crop Science, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Purdue University and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will bring the project to a total investment of $4,089,857. Read more

Of Interest

Ames Climate Action, a small group that has conferred with the Leopold Center on sustainability, has launched a food waste pickup service, Core Living Compost, in Ames, Iowa. Learn more at their website, corelivingcompost.com

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.