Summaries of five recently completed research projects are now available from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. Topics include the effects of biochar and nitrogen applications on perennial plant ecosystems, mob grazing of beef cattle, feasibility of a shared-use community kitchen in Des Moines, and ways to manage risk from extreme weather associated with climate change.
The projects were funded by the Leopold Center's long-running Competitive Grants Program. The new reports summarize what was learned from each project, and offer links to related resources.
Use of biochar, microorganisms in soil, nitrogen management
In the two ecosystem studies, ISU researchers conducted field experiments examining the effects of biochar on complex perennial plant communities, such as native or restored prairie. Biochar is a carbon-rich material, similar to charcoal, that is sometimes applied to crop fields to increase yield. The investigators found that biochar generally has a neutral to positive effect on ecosystems with tallgrass prairie species. This project was conducted at ISU's Western Research Station near Ute.
The second ecosystem study looked at how plants and microorganisms in the soil interact and respond to the addition of nitrogen at various levels and in different forms. Investigators took measurements from plots set up in three restored prairies: Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt in Polk County, Ahart Rudd Natural Resource Area in Crawford County, and Indian Creek nature Center in Linn County. Investigators received a $300,000 National Science Foundation grant to continue their work, so data will be collected at these sites for at least five years.
Summaries of recently completed projects available
Summaries of the results of these recently completed projects are now available on the Leopold Center's website leopold.iastate.edu/news/results. Project titles are:
• Biochar and managed perennial ecosystems: Testing for synergy in ecosystem function and biodiversity
• Determining threshold responses of plant-soil feedbacks to nitrogen deposition
• Enhancing botanical composition, wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration of pastures in south-central Iowa through soil disturbance by mob grazing of beef cattle
• Establishing shared-use processing facilities at three possible locations in central and south central Iowa
• Sustainable agricultural land tenure and risk management for extreme climatic events
Summaries of earlier projects are also still available
You will find multi-page summaries and one-page briefs for each project available for download in an easy-to-read format, says Mark Rasmussen, director of the Leopold Center at ISU. Summaries from earlier projects are still available as well. The Leopold Center has funded more than 500 competitive grant projects since 1988 under four initiatives: Marketing and Food Systems, Ecology, Policy and Cross-cutting.
The 1987 Iowa Groundwater Protection Act established the Leopold Center to support development of profitable farming systems that conserve natural resources through research and education programs.