The Leopold Center has awarded grants for 19 new projects that address the need to move toward agricultural sustainability and resilience on the Iowa landscape. The center, located at Iowa State University, made the announcement last week. The projects will fund a wide range of activities, from research on prairie strips to hold nutrients and biochar to improve soil quality, to year-round use of high tunnels for food production and development of resources for immigrant and minority populations who want to farm in Iowa.
Funds for the first year of work on these 19 projects total $595,102. Six of the new projects will be completed after one year, eight projects will run two years, and five projects are for three years.
The center also has renewed or is in the process of renewing 25 grants for multi-year projects already in progress. These projects, and the new work that will begin in 2011, bring the total amount of current grant-funded research at the Leopold Center to more than $1.25 million.
Current grant-funded research by Leopold Center is $1.25 million
"We are pleased to be able to offer grants for these projects, which will help build and extend the science of diverse agricultures to produce both profitable livelihoods for Iowa farmers and a healthy ecosystem for all Iowa citizens," says Leopold Center interim director Lois Wright Morton. "The center believes that these are important goals in moving Iowa agriculture toward sustainability."
New work in ecology. Eight new grants are part of the center's Ecology Initiative that focuses on innovative ways to create diversified farming systems in Iowa. Several of the research projects seek to learn more about how different ag systems function within their surrounding environment, such as effects of trees on stream water quality and the interaction of corn roots and the soil ecosystem.
Two projects expand research on the use of prairie strips within row-cropped watersheds, a new practice combining production and conservation that is being tested at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City. Investigators will look at how birds use these prairie areas. The second related project considers the farmers' decision-making process for adopting this new practice.
New cross-cutting research. Five new projects will begin in the Leopold Center's Cross-cutting Initiative that supports work across all of the center's research initiatives. The grants will fund activities related to the emerald ash borer invasion in Iowa, tile drainage water, on-farm research and demonstrations with Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Iowa Farm Energy Working Group and ISU's Long-Term Agroecological Research in organic practices.
The Cross-cutting initiative was developed in 2010 to strengthen the center's focus on systems-based research. The goal of the initiative is to provide scientific-based information in multiple areas that can be used to design farming systems that balance competing economic, environmental, social and policy demands from the outset.
New marketing projects. Six new projects in the Marketing and Food Systems Initiative will start work in 2011 and target several regions of the state. Two projects will create resources for people in immigrant and minority populations who want to get into farming. In southwest Iowa, investigators will explore the use of high tunnels for year-round crop production, and in east-central Iowa, project managers will research an online local food buying club. Another project will look at business structure options for a group of producers in southeast Iowa who are interested in supplying local food markets.
For details about all new and active grants, go to the Leopold Center's Current Competitive Grants page at www.leopold.iastate.edu/compgrants/compgrants.html
2011 NEW LEOPOLD CENTER COMPETITIVE GRANTS
• Blurring the lines between working and conservation lands: Bird use of prairie strips in row-cropped watersheds
• Biochar and managed perennial ecosystems: Testing for synergy in ecosystem function and biodiversity
• Enhancing botanical composition, wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration of pastures in south-central Iowa through soil disturbance by mob grazing of beef cattle
• Farmer perspectives on ecosystem service management, land-use targeting and the future of Cornbelt agriculture
• Getting the most from Iowa's forests: Linking forest understory composition to stream water quality and enhancing nutrient capture in forest remnants in agricultural landscapes
• Quantifying eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) in southern Iowa: A starting point for conversations with landowners about threats to grassland resilience
• Systems model and prototype development to capture and use rain water run-off from a high tunnel
• What drives corn yield stability in the context of climate variability?
• Building social networks to capture synergies in wood-based energy production and invasive pest mitigation
• Drainage water quality impacts of current and future agricultural management practices
• Increasing Iowa farmers' resiliency through the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) cooperators' program
• Iowa Farm Energy Working Group
• The Long-Term Agroecological Research (LTAR) Experiment: Ecological benefits of organic crop rotations in terms of crop yields, soil quality, economic performance and potential global climate change mitigation
• Developing permaculture techniques for increased production and profit in sustainable year-round agriculture for beginning farmers and ranchers in southwest Iowa
• In good company
• Iowa immigrant and refugee incubator farm program
• Involving new immigrants and minorities in local food systems
• Local food in every pot: Growing farmers in northeastern Iowa through public and private partnerships
• Research and development of an online local foods buying club cooperative