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Activities and research

The Agronomy, Horticulture, Plant Pathology, and Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering Departments at Iowa State University and the USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment conduct research and outreach focused on cover crops. Cover crop research projects address their effectiveness in improving soil and water quality, cover crop effects on weeds, diseases, and pests, and the agronomic aspects of incorporating cover crops into cropping systems in Iowa. Other field and greenhouse studies are evaluating different potential cover crop species and their impact on soil microbial ecology.
Along with these research and extension projects, significant outreach and on-farm demonstration projects are being conducted by the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) and the Iowa Learning Farm (ILF) across the state of Iowa. The PFI is a non-profit, educational group that was established in 1985 to address issues facing Iowa farmers. Since 1988, the PFI has conducted 27 on-farm studies looking at cover crops. The ILF is a statewide initiative, begun in 2005, involving farmer cooperators, agency partners, and university personnel. Together the PFI, ILF, ISU Agronomy Faculty, and the Leopold Center are conducting a statewide project with the core mission of promoting conservation practices to improve soil and water quality in the state using various measures, including the use of cover crops.

Learn more about cover crops programs at the ISU Agronomy Department and the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment here.

Learn about the Iowa Learning Farm (ILF), the Leopold Center and the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) here.


State representative

Tom Kaspar

Tom Kaspar, Plant Physiologist/Agronomist
USDA- Agricultural Research Service
National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment
2110 University Blvd.
Ames, Iowa  50010-3120
Voice: 515-294-8873
Fax: 515-294-8125

Visit the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment website here.

Tom has been with ARS since 1981 and at the National Soil Tilth Laboratory (NSTL) since its opening in 1989.  The overall objective of his research has been to minimize the environmental impacts of agriculture, while maintaining soil productivity and crop yields.  Specifically he has worked on crop root growth, no-till, planting systems, compaction, N management, and small grain cover crops.  Recently, his work has focused on documenting the water quality and soil productivity benefits of including winter cover crops in corn-soybean cropping systems and developing new cover crop management practices to make that more feasible.

Click here for links to Tom Kaspar's projects and publications.


Other important contacts and programs in Iowa

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MCCC Report


Iowa State University


Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture


Practical Farmers of Iowa


Other links

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Other important contacts and programs in Iowa

Sarah Carlson
Midwest Cover Crop Research Coordinator
Practical Farmers of Iowa
600 5th St., Suite 100
Ames, IA 50010
Phone: 515-232-5661

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Andrew Lenssen
Associate Professor
Iowa State University
Department of Agronomy
1405 Agronomy Hall
Ames, IA 50011-1010
Phone: 515-294-1060

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Ajay Nair
Assistant Professor
Iowa State University
Department of Horticulture
145 Horticulture Hall
Ames, IA 50011-1050
Phone: 515-294-7080

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