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 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

shoreline with green algae in the water
April 15, 2021

In a blog for the Iowa Learning Farms and Conservation Learning Group blog, Mark Rasmussen discusses algae and water pollution. 

Woman taking water sample, cover photo, Story County Water Monitoring Report 2021-2030
April 5, 2021

AMES, Iowa — The Ames-based not-for-profit Prairie Rivers of Iowa along with staff from Story County and eight other organizations, including the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, have developed a first of its kind countywide comprehensive water quality monitoring plan for 2021 – 2030.

cover of Leopold Center 2020 annual report
February 26, 2021

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s 2020 annual report is now online. The 18-page report includes news of the Leopold Center's new conference table made from a historic tree, along with thoughts upon the retirement of Fred Kirschenmann, both from Fred and from Mark Honeyman, ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Associate Dean. The report also offers articles on Leopold Center-supported projects, research and students, and an update on Whiterock Conservancy, the center's long-time partner. 

Read or download the report.

Paul Johnson, seated, center, with LCSA Director Mark Rasmussen and Elaine Spencer.
February 18, 2021


Paul Johnson (center) receiving the 2018 Spencer
Award at the Iowa Water Conference from LCSA
Director Mark Rasmussen and Elaine Spencer,
daughter of Norman and Margaretha Spencer

Of Interest

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. 

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.  

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.    

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.