The Leopold Center, created by Iowa’s 1987 Groundwater Protection Act, has 25 years of investment in agricultural research and practices to improve water quality. Nutrient loading to Iowa’s waterways is a critical concern for the health of Iowa’s people and environment as well as for the vitality of the Mississippi River watershed and Gulf of Mexico.
The Center’s investments extend beyond the science of sustainable farming practices to social, economic and policy implications.
How is our work used?
The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, a science and technology based assessment, was developed in response to the 2008 Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan.
The Iowa Nutrient Research Center has been established at Iowa State University as a result.
Nearly all the practices evaluated in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy have some history of research support from the Leopold Center.
- The Nitrogen Cycle Video of ISU agronomy assistant professor Michael Castellano and ag and biosystems engineering professor Matt Helmers [March 2015]
- Reducing Nutrient Loss: Science Shows What Works ISU Extension and Outreach publication SP435 [Sept 2014]
- Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy: A Farmer's Perspective Editorial article by Tim Smith, Wright County farmer [March 2014]
- AgriNews article explains Smith's operation.
- Crop Rotation Research Studies Residual Nitrate Fact sheet on a five-year comparison of cropping systems on a shallow wellfield that supplies water for Sioux Center.
- Managing Cropland for Nutrient Capture Fact sheet summarizing water quality studies at the ISU Northeast Research and Demonstration Farm near Nashua
- Practices to Improve Water Quality Fact sheet of practices that landowners can adopt to protect and improve water quality.
- Conservation Practices for Landlords Publication describes practices, their costs and where they are most effective in the landscape.
- Woodchip Bioreactors for Nitrate in Agricultural Drainage Fact sheet describes how bioreactors work and gives tips for installation
- Nabbing Nitrates: Before Water Leaves the Farm Videos on methods for treating nitrate in tile drainage and runoff
Working groups and research teams
The Leopold Center convenes and/or participates in a number of working groups and research teams that explore practices related to nutrient management:
- Iowa Learning Farms
- Iowa Cover Crops Working Group
- STRIPS Research Team
- Landscape Biomass Project
- Cropping Systems Research Team
- University of Iowa Biomass Partnership Project
- Green Lands, Blue Waters
Completed research projects: Between 1988-2015, the Leopold Center completed 94 projects dealing with nutrient management. The projects are summarized in the document: Nutrient Management: Completed Leopold Center Grants 1988-2015. During that time, the Center invested more than $5.3 million in nutrient management research, provided five years of research support for the Manure Management Issue Team, six years of support for the Hoop Group Initiative and ISU Extension's statewide Manure Management Education Initiative, as well as numerous conferences and workshops.