Summaries of seven recently competed competitive grant projects are now available from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. Among the research topics are phosphorus in beef cattle manure, soil quality in alternative cropping systems, on-farm energy use and machinery needs of small growers looking to scale up local food production. This information is on the Leopold Center website.
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.
Among the topics contained in this December 2014 release of seven reports, researchers from Iowa State University studied crop availability of phosphorus in various types of beef manure under various field conditions. This is the first update that had been done on this subject in decades. The results will be used to update management guidelines for using manure nutrients in crop production.
Evaluating different crops for biomass production
Another grant in the Leopold Center's Ecology Initiative was part of a larger ISU program to evaluate different cropping systems for production of biomass. The Leopold Center grant supported work to better understand underground activity of microorganisms in each of the cropping systems.
They found that roots of perennial crops such as switchgrass stimulated more microbial activity than an annual corn crop. This increased activity occurred regardless of position on the landscape where the crops were grown, and coincided with greater soil aggregation, which is important for storing carbon, nitrogen and water.
A third completed project in the Ecology Initiative evaluated six perennial tree and nut crops that can be grown in Iowa. The investigator found that several crops can generate per acre returns greater than row crops over a projected 20-year time frame, although risk generally is higher.
Studying farm energy use, and marketing locally-produced food
A grant from the Leopold Center's Cross-Cutting Initiative supported a two-year project by Practical Farmers of Iowa to get energy use data from 23 farmers on 14 farms. Although several types of farms were included in the study, the project focused on walk-in coolers, responsible for a large portion of the electricity bill on many fruit and vegetable farms. PFI worked with farmers to make their existing coolers more energy efficient and build conservation into the construction of new walk-in coolers.
Three projects completed work in the Leopold Center Marketing and Food Systems Initiative, including a survey of fruit and vegetable growers about their use of machinery. Other grants helped farmers transition to wholesale markets in northeast Iowa and supported the Regional Food Systems Working Group in collecting economic data on local food sales and purchases throughout Iowa.
You can read more about the results of these studies
Find the newest research results on the Leopold Center's website at www.leopold.iastate.edu/news/results. A multi-page summary of the findings, a one-page brief, and links to related resources are available for these recently completed grant projects:
• Crop availability of phosphorus in beef manure
• Transitioning to ecologically functional production systems
• Evaluating perennial crop options for inclusion in agroforestry systems
• Farm-metered energy analyses: Getting baseline data, ground-truthing changes
• Machinery management for small- and medium-sized horticultural farms
• Transitioning farmers to produce for wholesale markets
• Convening the Regional Food Systems Working Group