Leopold Center awards research grants for 2017

February 7, 2017

AMES, Iowa – The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture has awarded grants for 21 new research and demonstration projects to begin this year. The grants will aid in the advancement of sustainable agriculture while protecting Iowa’s soil and water and help Iowa citizens increase the availability of locally grown foods. The new grants, totaling $1.4 million, are awarded through the Leopold Center’s four research initiatives: Ecology, Marketing and Food Systems, Policy, and Cross-Cutting.

“With 2017 being the Leopold Center’s 30th year of operations, we have reviewed the scope of our funded research projects. Over these three decades, the projects we have funded are innovative, forward-thinking and successful,” says Leopold Center director Mark Rasmussen. “This year is no exception. The Center continues to advance agriculture and food systems in Iowa.”

The grants vary in length; five projects are for one year, nine will be conducted over two years, and seven projects run for three years. In addition to these new projects, work continues on many other multi-year projects supported by the Leopold Center’s long-running competitive grants program.

Ecology Initiative

The Ecology Initiative is funding five new research projects. Topics include nitrogen in prairie potholes on farmland, integrating rye seed production and red clover into corn systems, improving soil health and water quality through better phosphorus management, exploring whether cover crops increase soil resistance to climate change, and scaling up the use of perennial vegetation for water quality and landscape diversity.

Marketing and Food Systems Initiative

The Marketing and Food Systems Initiative has six new research projects starting in 2017. Topics include connecting Latino groceries to local food producers, increasing sales of fresh food to schools through food hubs; developing local food supply chains in northern Iowa; connecting, empowering and training Iowa food entrepreneurs; developing a virtual market; and developing online training for local food leaders.

Policy Initiative

The Policy Initiative has two new project grants: one will survey farmers about Iowa farmland ownership, tenure and succession; the other will explore opportunities for leveraging public resources to engage more Iowa farmers in water quality protection.

Cross-Cutting Initiative

Eight projects in the Cross-Cutting Initiative will begin this year. Topics include: education of beginning beekeepers, precision cover crop seeding, nutrient management for hop production, enhancing cover crop value with beef stocker cattle, comparison of perennial and annual cropping systems on soil health and nitrogen fertilization treatments, and others.

Descriptions of the work, who will be conducting each project and other details, are available on the Leopold Center website at: https://www.leopold.iastate.edu/grants/current.





  • Prairie pothole soils: Hotspots of nitrogen losses from Iowa agricultural landscapes?
  • Integrating rye seed production and red clover cover into corn systems and nitrogen management
  • Improving soil health and water quality through better soil phosphorus assessment and management practices – phase 2
  • Building the soil immune system: Do cover crops increase soil health and resistance to climate change?
  • Scaling up the use of native perennial vegetation for water quality and landscape diversity


  • Evaluating performance and feeding suitability of corn genetic traits
  • Revision of Extension publication PM 1713: Pasture Management for Livestock Producers
  • How does soil health differ between perennial and annual cropping systems across contrasting nitrogen fertilization treatments?
  • Enhancing the value of cover crops through utilization by beef stocker cattle
  • Impacts of cropping system diversity and input reduction on greenhouse gas mitigation, soil and water quality, and economic performance of Iowa grain systems
  • Optimizing nutrient management for Iowa hop production
  • Precision cover crop seeding with existing planting equipment
  • Promotion of the continued development of beginning bee keepers


  • Who will own Iowa’s farmland? A comparative study of farmland ownership, tenure, and succession in Iowa
  • Promoting improved water quality from Iowa farms: Opportunities for leveraging public resources to engage more Iowa farmers and landowners in water quality protection

Marketing and Food Systems

  • Latino groceries in the rural Midwest: Connecting tiendas to Iowa local food producers to amplify retails markets
  • Fresh innovation: Testing fresh processed products to increase food hub to school sales
  • Supply chain development in Northern Iowa: Connecting north Iowa local food producers with Opportunity Village Processing
  • Iowa kitchen connect: Empowering, connecting, and training Iowa’s food entrepreneurs
  • Region 9 Virtual Market
  • Online training modules and professional development: A national certification program for local food leaders