'On the Ground' videos

"On the Ground" video series is a collection of short films showcasing the results of many of the Leopold Center research projects.

The 37 videos are on the Leopold Center's Vimeo group, housed with Iowa State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Vimeo channel. Clicking on the video title below will take you directly to the specific video.


1: Forage Diversity, the Spice of Life in Southern Iowa

Brian Petersen and John Klein from the Natural Resources Conservation Service worked to increase the management options for southern Iowa graziers. The forage and legume mixed pastures at the 10-year-old Adams County CRP Research and Demonstration Farm are diverse and can nearly handle year-round grazing.


2: Developing the Portfolio: Biomass Options

Lisa Schulte, assistant professor in the Natural Resource Ecology and Management Department at Iowa State University, tested alternative cropping systems - from triticale to trees - that farmers might add to their portfolio of cellulosic biomass feedstock. She measured all aspects of each system, from yields to water quality and plant and insect diversity. 


3: Adding Perennials to an Annual Landscape

Matt Helmers, water quality engineer with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, worked with a team of ISU researchers to grow strips of prairie plants integrated with row crops to improve water quality and reduce erosion. They worked in 14 small watersheds at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Jasper County, Iowa.


4: Feeding DDGs in Forage-based Beef Systems

Dan Loy, ISU Extension and Outreach beef specialist, examined the costs and advantages of feeding DDGs to cattle in forage based beef systems. He worked with three Iowa beef producers on this project.


5: Evaluating Denitrifying Bioreactors

A‚Äčlok Bhandari, professor in the ISU Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering department, researched bioreactors as a method of removing nitrates from tile drained water and as a nitrogen management option for Iowa farmers.


6: Alternative Weed Control for Iowa Vineyards

Gail Nonnecke, Iowa State University horticulture professor, researched alternative methods of weed control for use by Iowa grape growers.


7: Extending Corn and Soybean Rotations

Matt Liebman, ISU Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture and professor of Agronomy, researched and compared different cropping systems over time to find a system to improve economic performance and protect environmental quality and human health.


8: Landscape Biomass Project Overview

Lisa Schulte-Moore, associate professor in the ISU Natural Resource Ecology and Management Department, led a research team that studied five cropping systems to supply cellulosic biomass feedstock for the next generation of renewable energy production.


9: Landscape Biomass: Tools and Measurements

This long-term project involved many students taking various measurements at the research site throughout the growing season. Two of those students are featured on this video.


10: Landscape Biomass: Trees

Richard Hall, tree geneticist and professor in the ISU Natural Resource Ecology and Management Department, focused on hybrid aspen trees with this biomass production project.


11: Landscape Biomass: Row Crops

Ken Moore, professor in the ISU Department of Agronomy, looked at row and forage cropping systems as part of a biomass production project.


12: Patch-Burn Grazing: Working With Insects

Diane Debinski, ISU ecology professor, studied insect responses to patch-burn grazing.


13: Patch-Burn Grazing: Vegetation

David Engle, ecology professor at Oklahoma State University, worked on the vegetative aspect of the patch-burn grazing project.


14: Patch-Burn Grazing: Sociology of the Project

Lois Wright Morton, ISU associate professor in sociology, led a research team that evaluated patch-burn grazing as a management tool in the Grand River Grasslands in southern Iowa.


15: Patch-Burn Grazing: Treatments and Burning

ISU scientist Ryan Harr coordinated the team who conducted the prairie controlled burns for the patch-burning project.


16: Water Usage of Native Perennials in Annual Crop System

Matt Helmers, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department professor, worked with a team of ISU researchers to find the water usage of native perennial plants in an annual crop system. They worked with 48 plots on the Agronomy and Agricultural Engineering Research Farm, west of Ames.


17: Water Usage of Native Perennials in Annual Crop System - Collecting Data

Emily Hancheck, graduate student in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department, discusses the technology used while working with a team of ISU researchers to find the water usage of native perennial plants in an annual crop system. They worked with 48 plots on the Agronomy and Agricultural Engineering Research Farm, west of Ames.


18: Bioenergy Systems and Soil Health

Tom Sauer, soil scientist for the USDA National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, describes how vegetation changes soil quality, specifically the soil atmosphere around plant roots. His work was part of a larger project looking at biomass cropping systems for energy production.


19: Cover Crop Systems for Iowa

Leopold Center research supports living mulch and cover crop systems appropriate for Iowa agriculture. Jeremy Singer describes his research and the advantages of using cover crop systems.


20: Grazing, Browsing and Conservation Partnerships Overview

Polk County Conservation natural resource specialist Loren Lown hopes that goats and cattle grazing in the Chichaqua Bottoms Wildlife Area will rejuvenate habitat and control invasive species.


21: Grazing, Browsing and Conservation Partnerships: Goats

Polk County Conservation natural resource specialist Loren Lown hopes that goats and cattle grazing in the Chichaqua Bottoms Wildlife Area will rejuvenate habitat and control invasive species. Hear from Iowa farmers who own the goats about the benefits they get from this Leopold Center ecology project.


22: Grazing, Browsing and Conservation Partnerships: Cattle

Polk County Conservation natural resource specialist Loren Lown hopes that goats and cattle grazing in the Chichaqua Bottoms Wildlife Area will rejuvenate habitat and control invasive species. Hear from Iowa farmers who own the cattle about the benefits they get from this Leopold Center ecology project.


23: Farming for Untroubled Waters: Part 1 - Time, Tools Make a Difference

Bear Creek Watershed in Story County, Iowa, is a nationally recognized project by the USDA, and has more than 20 years of research under its belt. The research involves riparian buffers and how they benefit the surrounding land and water. Hear from Iowa State researcher Tom Isenhart and what he hopes to learn from two new projects at the site, in part I of our Bear Creek series, "Farming for Untroubled Waters."


24: Farming for Untroubled Waters: Part 2 - Reconnecting Tiles and Buffers

Bear Creek Watershed in Story County, Iowa, is a nationally recognized project by the USDA, and has more than 20 years of research under its belt. The research involves riparian buffers and how they benefit the surrounding land and water. Hear from USDA soil scientist Dan Jaynes and what he hopes to learn from two new projects at the site in part II of the Bear Creek series, "Farming for Untroubled Waters."


25: Farming for Untroubled Waters: Part 3 - Buffered Streams and Uplands

Bear Creek Watershed in Story County, Iowa, is a nationally recognized project by the USDA, and has more than 20 years of research under its belt. The research involves riparian buffers and how they benefit the surrounding land and water. Hear from Iowa State researcher Dick Schultz and Iowa Department of Natural Resources researcher Keith Schilling about what they hope to learn from two new projects at the site, in the final part of the Bear Creek series, "Farming for Untroubled Waters."


26: Cover on the Ground - All Winter Long

Mary Wiedenhoeft, professor in the ISU Department of Agronomy, and Stefan Gailans, a former Ph.D. student, discuss a Leopold Center-funded project on alternative crop systems using spring and winter varieties of canola and wheat.


27: On-Farm Practices to Reduce Nitrate Loading to Shallow Wells

Dordt College researcher Robb DeHaan and farmer Matt Schuiteman discuss a Leopold Center project on alternative cropping systems that help hold nitrogen in place, protecting shallow wells that supply water to the residents of Sioux Center, Iowa.


28: Grazing Native Grasslands at Whiterock

Tolif Hunt, former executive director of Whiterock Conservancy, and ecologist Elizabeth Hill describe how cattle grazing can add beneficial disturbance to Iowa's native grasslands. The Leopold Center-funded project compiled nutritional data into a calendar to help landowners take advantage of this management tool.


29: Cattle Grazing for Healthier Pastures

Mob, strip, and rotational grazing offer options to cattle farmers to develop healthier pastures. Jim Russell, professor with the Iowa State University Department of Animal Science, and former graduate student Margaret Dunn, discuss a Leopold Center project that compares the three systems.


30: Testing a Trio: Prairie Strips, Row Crops and Birds

Iowa farmers can create vital habitat for grassland birds by incorporating small strips of native prairies into row-cropped fields. Anna MacDonald, former ISU graduate student in wildlife ecology, discusses a Leopold Center research project at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, near Prairie City, Iowa.


31: Iowa Woodlands Working for Water

Jan Thompson, professor in the ISU Natural Resource Ecology and Management Department, describes a Leopold Center project that links plant species in the woodland understory to stream water quality. Also featured are Ph.D. candidate Michaeleen Gerken, graduate student Alister Olson and undergraduate student Joe Bolton.


32: Carbon Movement Through Iowa Landscapes - The Project

Funded by NASA EPSCoR, research models indicate how carbon moves through Clear Creek, a typical Iowa watershed, with the goal of informing land management practices to create healthy soil, clean water, and carbon sequestration. Thanos Papanicolaou and Christopher Wilson, at the University of Iowa, describe the project's importance.


33: Carbon Movement Through Iowa Landscapes - The Models

Funded by NASA EPSCoR, research models indicate how carbon moves through Clear Creek, a typical Iowa watershed, with the goal of informing land management practices to create healthy soil, clean water and carbon sequestration. Graduate students Dimitrios Dermisis and Ken Wacha describe how the models WEPP and CENTURY work together.


34: Biochar and Organic Tomatoes

Applying carbon-rich biochar to farmland improves soil health, but questions remain about how biochar influences yields and interacts with mycorrhizae, an important soil fungi. Erich Sneller, ISU Environmental Sciences student, describes an experiment at TableTop Farm, of applying biochar, with or without mycorrhizae, to organic tomatoes. This experiment is part of a larger effort to study biochar in natural ecosystems.


35: Biochar and Prairie Biodiversity

Applying carbon-rich biochar to farmland improves soil health, but questions remain about how biochar affects the surrounding natural ecosystems. Lori Biederman, with the ISU Ecology Evolution and Organismal Biology department, describes an experiment in the Loess Hills to understand how biochar influences the biodiversity of native prairies.


36: Cover Crop Mystery - Winter Rye and Corn

Winter rye cover crops can improve farmland health, but sometimes cause unexplained yield decreases in the following corn crop. Tom Kaspar, principal investigator of a Leopold Center grant project, conducted lab and field studies to test the hypothesis that winter rye hosts corn seedling pathogens, with the goal of identifying effective management strategies.


37: From Gut to Soil to Water: Bacterial Transport Through the Environment

Integrated crop and livestock systems utilize manure as an organic source of fertilizer, but within this manure are bacteria that may contaminate water bodies if transported off the field by rain. Iowa State University professor Michelle Soupir describes her field and lab studies of bacterial movement from manure to soil to water, as well as the survival of potential disease-causing bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics used to treat livestock and humans.