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SusAg at ISU

GPSA Handbook
(Revised August 2013)

Chennault awarded Brown Graduate Fellowship

Congratulations to PhD student Carrie Chennault on her Brown Graduate Fellowship! Brown Graduate Fellowships are awarded by the Vice President of Research to advance ISU research in the areas of science, agriculture, and space science.

February 2015

SASA Showcases Local Food with Ames Edible Garden Tour

[Iowa State Daily News Release]

September 2014

SASA's Food at First Garden is First Stop on Ames Edible Garden Tour

[Iowa State News Release]

September 2014

GPSA Alums Feed Their Community at Red Earth Gardens

GPSA alums, Jennifer Vazquez and Laura Kleiman, feed their community at the Meskwaki Nation community-based farm, Red Earth Gardens.  [Iowa Public Radio News Release]

September 2014

Ames Edible Garden Tour Featured on KHOI

Listen to Amanda Raster and Jackie Nester describe the Ames Edible Garden Tour on KHOI. Amanda and Jackie are welcomed to the show at 35:35.   [KHOI Broadcast 09/08/2014]

September 2014

Carter Receives ISU Research Excellence Award

Angie Carter received the ISU Research Excellence Award for Summer 2014. The program recognizes "the best of the best" graduate students for outstanding thesis or dissertation research.  [Research Excellence Award Nominees]

September 2014

Nair Receives NCR-SARE Grant

Ajay Nair was awarded a $198,353 grant from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) program for his project "Cover Crops and Strip Tillage to Promote Soil Quality, Environmental Sustainability, Food Safety and Profitability in Cucurbit Cropping Systems". For 2014, NCR-SARE awarded more than $1.6 million to nine projects ranging from $103,675 to $199,866. The Research and Education Program is a competitive grant program for researchers and educators involved in projects that explore and promote environmentally sound, profitable, and socially responsible food and/or fiber systems.  [NCR-SARE News Release]

August 2014

Jokela Receives NCR-SARE Graduate Student Grant

Dana Jokela, in collaboration with Ajay Nair, was awarded a $9,946 grant from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) Graduate Student program for his project "No-till and Strip-till Systems for Enhanced Soil Health and Profitability in Organic Broccoli and Pepper Production". For 2014, NCR-SARE awarded more than $150,000 to 16 projects ranging from $6,382 to $10,000. The Graduate Student Program is a competitive grant program to fund graduate student projects that address sustainable agriculture issues.
[NCR-SARE News Release]

August 2014

Osterholz Receives NCR-SARE Graduate Student Grant

William Osterholz, in collaboration with Matt Liebman, was awarded a $9,144 grant from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) Graduate Student program for his project "Diversification of Corn-Soybean Rotations with Cereal Rye/Red Cover: Impacts on Nitrogen Avaiilability in Corn". For 2014, NCR-SARE awarded more than $150,000 to 16 projects ranging from $6,382 to $10,000. The Graduate Student Program is a competitive grant program to fund graduate student projects that address sustainable agriculture issues.  [NCR-SARE News Release]

August 2014

Van Der Maaten Receives RSS Award

Maria Van Der Maaten was awarded a Rural Sociology Society award for her doctoral dissertation "Agroecology as a Form of Adaptation, Contestation, or Resistance: Socioeconomic and Environmental Inequality and Vulnerability among Indigenous Mayans in Guatemala's Western Highlands". Van Der Maaten is a GPSA graduate student.

August 2014

SASA Receives Live Green Award

The Live Green Award for Excellence in Sustainability exemplifies the continued commitment of the Sustainable Agriculture Student Association (SASA) in increasing dialogue, education, and outreach on sustainable agriculture; and fostering action within the greater community.

April 2014

2014 GPSA Research Symposium

April 16 at 3:10 pm
Sun Room, Memorial Union
Dr. Elena Bennett, McGill University
Ecosystem services from agriculture: designing multifunctional landscapes
March 2014

Bacterial Transport Under Scrutiny in Iowa Pastures

Michelle Soupir, assistant professor of ag engineering and GPSA faculty member, is investigating the transport of cow and pig manure with surface water in pastures and fields. Soupir is also testing for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to help determine the impact of antibiotic use in livestock on regional landscapes.  [Leopold Center News Release]

August 2013

Faculty Research in Vegetable Production Responding to Producer Demands

Over the past two years, GPSA faculty member Ajay Nair has been conducting intensive research on sustainable vegetable production practices that include use of soil amendments, methods to extend growing seasons, cover cropping systems, and transplant production.  The results of this research are published on the Sustainable Vegetable Production website, sponsored by ISU Extension.  [Leopold Center News Release]

July 2013

GPSA Hosts Dan Carmody

GPSA hosted Dan Carmody, president of the Detroit Eastern Market Coporation, for its ninth annual research symposium on 10 April.  [2013 Research Symposium Retrospective]

May 2013

Faculty Research Shows Conservation Benefits of Prairie Plantings in Crop Land

Lisa Schulte-Moore and Matt Helmers, GPSA faculty members,are part of a multidisciplinary team of scientists researching the conservation benefits of planting prairie strips among row crops. Such strips have associated positive environmental effects on sediment and nutrient transport and surface water flow. [CALS News Release]

April 2013

Faculty Member Researches Low-Input, High-Diversity Rotations

Long-term research led by Matt Liebman, GPSA faculty member, has demonstrated that low-input, high-diversity crop rotations can outperform conventional systems in yields and produce similar profits.  Such systems also offer significant environmental benefits. [Leopold Center News Release]

July 2012

GPSA Faculty Member Leads Research on Climate Effects on Corn

Lois Wright Morton, GPSA faculty member and professor in the ISU Department of Sociology, has started her second year as the project director for the Climate and Corn-Based Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project.  Funded by a $20 million USDA-NIFA grant, the project incorporates the work of a 140-member team distributed among 10 land-grant universities. More
June 2012

2012 Research Symposium Retrospective

The 2012 GPSA Research Symposium on 11 April included a celebration of the program's 10th anniversary, a keynote research lecture, and poster displays of student and faculty research.  The following page reviews the day's events, including podcasts of the presentations, the winners of the research poster competition, photo highlights, and a pdf copy of the 10th anniversary publication.
April 2012

GPSA Student Recognized with Multicultural Award

Claudia Prado-Meza Claudia Prado-Meza, PhD candidate in the GPSA, has been named the 2012 recipient of the Advancing One Community Award.  The award is made in recognition of continuous service and effort directed to building a multicultural community at ISU.  For details, please see Advancing One Community.
January 2012

Hurburgh Leads Effort to Improve Food Safety Management Systems

Charles Hurburgh, professor in the Department of Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering and GPSA faculty member, is the principal investigator for a grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop training programs in support of the Food Safety Modernization Act.  For details, please see the NIH press release.
January 2012

Faculty Research Biofuel Production

A group of five GPSA faculty - Richard Cruse, Matt Helmers, Matt Liebman, Fernando Miguez, and Michael Thompson - are co-investigators for a recently awarded USDA-NIFA grant titled "Biofuel Cropping Systems for Feedstock Production and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation."  The team will explore the economic and environmental impact of four production systems.  Additional details are available in the news release.
August 2011

Incorporating Prairie into Row Cropping Production Systemes

A multi-year research project conducted by GPSA faculty and a multi-disciplinary term at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge has demonstrated that perennial prairie tracts incorporated into agricultural landscapes pay large returns in terms of conservation and biodiversity effects.  Such tracts reduce erosion and runoff in surrounding crop land and serve as refuge for beneficial bird and insect species.  The project Web site, "Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairies," is located at STRIPs.
June 2011

GPSA Faculty Member Investigates Sustainability of Organic Vegetable Production

Kathleen Delate and a team of researchers are investigating multiple parameters relating to organic vegetable production. The collected data are aimed at providing organic producers with science-based information to help their operations be sustainable. The project is funded by USDA-NIFA.  For details, please see organic research.
January 2011

GPSA Team Publication Focuses on Functional Use of Prairies

Meghann Jarchow, GPSA PhD candidate, and her advisor Matt Liebman, Wallace Chair and professor of agronomy, have published a new handbook titled "Incorporating Prairies into Multifunctional Landscapes." The publication outlines how prairie systems can be integrated into agriculture and the associated benefits.  PDF copies may be downloaded or printed copies requested free-of-charge at the following Web page. PMR 70 - Incorporating Prairies.
October 2010

Research by GPSA Student Shows Decline in Nonrenewable Energy Use for Pig Production

Research conducted by Pete Lammers, GPSA PhD graduate, and Mark Honeyman, GPSA faculty member and professor in animal science, has shown a reduction of nearly 80-percent in the nonrenewable energy used to produce market pigs.  The study employs life cycle assessment methods to evaluate the environmental impact of livestock production.  For more information, see Press release.
October 2010

GPSA Faculty Research Switchgrass as
Nitrate Management Tool

Matt Helmers, associate professor of agricultural & biosystems engineering, and Antonio Mallarino, professor of agronomy, are pursuing research with switchgrass as a tool to reduce nitrate leaching into soils. They aim to evaluate the environmental benefits of growing biomass feedstocks such as switchgrass to inform policy discussions of biofuel production. For more information see Switchgrass research.
August 2010

GPSA Student Receives NCR-SARE Grant

Stefan Gailans, MS candidate in the GPSA, has been awarded a research grant from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program under the auspices of its 2010 Graduate Student Grant Program.  The title of Gailans' project is "Evaluating Canola and Winter Cover in Alternative Cropping Systems in Iowa."

Please see the following link for a project abstract.
June 2010

Faculty Research Highlighted by National Geographic

The 3 May edition of National Geographic Daily News features the crop rotation research conducted by Matt Liebman, GPSA faculty member and the Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture.  Liebman's research suggests that fossil fuel inputs to cropping systems can be significantly reduced by altering rotations and integrating livestock.

For the complete article, see
May 2010

Pete Lammers Receives GPSA Research Award

Pete Lammers (MS 2006, PhD 2009) was awarded the 2010 GPSA Interdisciplinary Research Award at the program's annual research symposium on 21 April.

The award is given annually to a graduate student who has conducted outstanding research in sustainable agriculture that integrates multiple disciplines and addresses significant research issues.

Details are available at the following link.
April 2010

GPSA Convenes 6th Annual Research Symposium

Thomas Tomich

Dr. Thomas Tomich, founding director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at the University of California-Davis, holder of the W.K. Kellogg Chair in Sustainable Food Systems, and professor of community development and environmental science and policy at UC-Davis, was the keynote speaker for the GPSA's sixth annual research symposium held on 21 April 2010.

The title of Dr. Tomich's presentation was "Bridging the Science / Society / Policy Gap."

Dr. Tomich spoke in the Kocimski Auditorium in the ISU College of Design.  His presentation was followed by a research poster display and discussion.

Dr. Tomich's profile is available at

April 2010

October 2009

GPSA Alum Manages USEPA "Green" Roof

Jennifer Bousselot (GPSA MS, 2003) is playing a key role in the installation and management of a "green" roof on the USEPA Region 8 headquarters building in Denver, Colorado.  The roof is planted with a variety of plant species to optimize environmental benefits. For the full story, see
Green Roof.

October 2009

GPSA Alum Publishes Food Safety Book

Greg Bennet, 2008 PhD graduate of the GPSA, has published
"Food Identity Preservation and Traceability:  Safer Grains." The book grew out of Bennet's research conducted while a GPSA student.  Publication details are available at CRC Press.

September 2009

GPSA Students Awarded Fulbright Grants

GPSA major Elise Regen and GPSA co-major Laura Christianson have been awarded US Student Fulbright Grants to support their research projects in Egypt and New Zealand respec-tively.  Both are pursuing the PhD degree.  For details, please see Fulbright news release.

September 2009

GPSA Faculty Recognized

At the fall 2009 University Convocation and Awards Ceremony, two GPSA faculty were honored: Ramesh Kanwar, chair of the Department of Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering, was named Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture & Life Sciences; Mary Wiedenhoeft, chair of the GPSA and professor in the Department of Agronomy, was recognized with the Louis Thompson Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award.

August 2009

On-Line Videos Highlight Sustainable Ag Research

A new series of on-line videos prepared by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture highlights current research projects conducted by GPSA faculty members Alok Bhandari, Matt Helmers, Matt Liebman, and Lisa Schulte.  The streaming video is available at the following link.   On the Ground.

May 2009

GPSA Students Awarded USDA NCR-SARE Grants

Three GPSA students, Laura Christianson, Meghann Jarchow, and Drake Larsen, have been awarded graduate student research grants by the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) program.  For full details, please see 2009 SARE Grants.

April 2009

Amber Anderson Mba Recognized with GPSA Research Award

Amber Anderson Mba, 2008 MS graduate of the GPSA, was recognized for her thesis research with the GPSA Interdisciplinary Research Award.

The award was presented at the program's annual research symposium on 29 April.  For details and pictures, please see 2009 Research Award.

April 2009

Fred Kirschenmann Keynote Speaker for 2009 GPSA Research Symposium

Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, headlines the program for the 2009 GPSA Symposium.

Kirshenmann will present "Sustainability in the 21st Century:  From Greening to Resilience." A copy of the presentation is available at Greening to Resilience.

Following the presentation in the Sun Room of the ISU Memorial Union will be a poster session in the adjoining South Ballroom. Current research projects of GPSA students and faculty will be highlighted
Fred Kirschenmann

September 2008

Robert Costanza Featured as 2008 Pesek Colloquium Speaker

Robert Costanza Robert Costanza, the Gund Professor of Ecological Economics and the Director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont, is the featured lecturer for the 2008 John Pesek Colloquium on Sustainable Agriculture, scheduled for 11 September.

The title of Dr. Costanza's lecture is "Ecological Economics: Creating a Sustainable and Desirable Future."  A text copy of the lecture is available at

The presentation is in the Great Hall of the ISU Memorial Union at 7:00 PM.

June 2008

GPSA Doctoral Student Receives LEAP Fellowship

Haroon Sseguya, GPSA PhD student co-majoring in sustainable agriculture and sociology, has been named the recipient of a Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (LEAP) Fellowship by the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellows Program.

The fellowship provides up to $20,000 for one year duration to be applied for research that continues the work started by Dr. Borlaug to alleviate hunger and expand agricultural production in specifically targeted countries.

Sseguya will travel to his home country of Uganda to conduct research for his dissertation "The Impact of Social Capital on Food Security in Southeast Uganda."
Haroon Sseguya

November 2007

GPSA Faculty Member Receives USDA Teaching Award

On 11 November, Amy Kaleita, GPSA faculty member and assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, received the US Department of Agriculture Food and Agricultural Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award.

The award recognizes outstanding teaching quality, exceptional application of teaching philosophy and methodology, service to the profession and students, as well as professional growth and development.

A press release with additional details is available at
Amy Kaleita

August 2007

GPSA Faculty Member Named "Friend of Conservation"

Dick Schultz Dick Schultz, GPSA faculty member and professor in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management (NREM), was recognized this month by the Iowa Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society as a "Friend of Conservation."

The award honors Schultz's many years of research devoted to soil and water quality in Iowa.  His work focuses on the design and function of riparian management systems that help control the transport of soil and nutrients into water bodies.
A detailed news release about the award may be found at

Schultz's faculty Web page is located at

June 2007

Des Moines Register Publishes Editorial by GPSA Student Association

On 18 June 2007, the Des Moines Register, Iowa's leading newspaper, published an editorial composed by the Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture Student Association (GPSASA).

While the column appears with the bylines of David Correll and Devan McGranahan, both MS students in the program, it is the product of all association members.  Motivated by their concern for the direction of agricultural policy and feeling the need to engage in the public debate of that policy, the members of the GPSASA devoted several weeks to discussing and drafting the content of the editorial.

The GPSASA is a student-managed organization, composed of GPSA students (past and present), GPSA faculty, and their spouses and partners.  The association works to promote sustainable agriculture, consumer outreach and education, and to improve current agricultural practices.

January 2007

First Outstanding Student Service Award is Presented

On January 24, 2007, Valentin Picasso, GPSA PhD candidate, was presented with the Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture’s 2006 Outstanding Student Service Award.  The award recognized Valentin’s dedication to the GPSA program and his efforts in increasing student–faculty collegiality.

The GPSA Awards Committee wrote:  "Valentin is one of those unique students who is constantly investigating issues of sustainable agriculture and disseminating any useful information he finds to the GPSA community at large.  While excelling in his coursework and field studies, he found time to help create a sustainable agriculture community on campus, including advancing the work of the GPSA student group.  He pushed for greater student involvement in GPSA curricula issues and was instrumental in bringing students’ voices into key decisions regarding GPSA programmatic development."

Valentin is working with Dr. Charlie Brummer (formerly with the ISU Department of Agronomy, now at the University of Georgia) on polyculture systems and expects to graduate in Summer 2007.

The Outstanding Student Service Award was created in 2006 to recognize exceptional student contributions to the program.  The award includes a certificate, a gift book, and a $100 cash stipend.

September 2006

Mary Nyasimi is Recipient of 2006 GPSA Research Award

On 13 September 2006, the Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture awarded Mary Nyasimi its Interdisciplinary Research Award.  Nyasimi is presently a PhD student in sustainable agriculture, with her home department in Anthropology.  The award recognizes Nyasimi's thesis research on the effects of land management practices on soil and water resources in a village in Kenya, her home country. Her analysis included evaluating the influence of social institutions and cultural attitudes on the degradation of the local environment.

The image to the right shows Matt Liebman, professor and chair of the GPSA, presenting Nyasimi with the award certificate.

The Interdisciplinary Research Award is given annually to a GPSA student who best synthesizes natural and social science disciplines in her/his research.  The award includes a certificate and a $300 cash stipend.

Nyasimi plans to expand her research in Kenya for her doctoral dissertation.

Select image to enlarge view.

July 2006

GPSA Faculty Member Receives Prestigious Crop Science Award

photo of Jean-Luc Jannink Jean-Luc Jannink has been named the 2006 recipient of the Young Crop Scientist Award by the Crop Science Society of America.

Jean-Luc is an associate professor in the ISU Department of Agronomy who works in the field of crop breeding.  More information about his research is available at

May 2006

GPSA Faculty and Students Receive Grants through New On-Farm Research Program

GPSA faculty and students were well represented in the recent round of research awards made under the auspices of the new ISU On-Farm Research and Demonstration Grant Program.  A total of ten projects were funded; six of these include among their investigators 7 GPSA faculty and 3 GPSA students.  Project titles follow, with the GPSA participants named.

  • Diversifying the Iowa Farm Landscape for Improved Pest Management.
    Matt O'Neal (assistant professor, Department of Entomology) et al.

  • Weed Control in Perennial Wetland Pastures Using Goat Browsing.
    Betty Wells, (professor, Department of Sociology), Ryan Marquardt, (MS student) et al.

  • On-Farm Research for Improved Seed Quality of Organic Flax.
    Jim Kliebenstein, (professor, Department of Economics), Mary Wiedenhoeft, (associate professor, Department of Agronomy), Sarah Carlson, (MS student) et al.

  • Manure Rate Effects on Soil Quality
    Doug Karlen, (professor, Department of Agronomy) et al.

  • Exploring Illinois Bundleflower as an Alternative Crop for Iowa.
    Charles Brummer, (professor, Department of Agronomy), Valentin Picasso, (PhD student) et al.

  • The Use and Effects of Controlled Traffic Farming
    Amy Kaleita, (assistant professor, Department of Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering) et al.

New in 2006, the On-Farm Research and Demonstration Program is a collaborative effort of the ISU College of Agriculture, the ISU Extension Sustainable Agriculture program, and Practical Farmers of Iowa.  Grants up to $5000 each will be awarded annually over the next three years to research teams consisting of ISU faculty, students, and Iowa farmers.

For a news release with additional details, please see

October 2005

GPSA Student Takes First Place in Poster Competition

thumbnail image of poster
Select image to view pdf of poster.
Mary Nyasimi, GPSA MS student, has won first place in the graduate division of the Fourth Annual Norman Borlaug Poster Competition, held on 17 October 2005 at Iowa State University. Her winning entry was titled "Friendship and Power:  How Food Defines Our Place in Society." The recognition includes a $100 cash prize.

The poster competition traditionally focuses on global food-related topics and features submissions from graduate and undergraduate students.  The competition has become an associated event for the annual Norman Borlaug Lecture, named for the nobel laureate and Iowa native.  Both the lecture and poster programs highlight current issues related to food, agriculture, and the alleviation of hunger.

More information about Ms. Nyasimi and her research is available at her Web site:

October 2005

GPSA Faculty Member Named Recipient of Sustainable Agriculture Award

Jerry DeWitt, professor of entomology, coordinator for ISU Extension programs in sustainable agriculture, and GPSA faculty member, has been named the 2005 recipient of the Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture.  DeWitt's work in integrated pest management and extension programs and his support in developing novel programs that place ISU at forefront of sustainable agriculture activities nation-wide earned him this recognition.  Please see for more about DeWitt.

The Spencer Award was established in 2001 and is intended to recognize significant contributions to the advancement of ecological and economic practices that will make agriculture sustainable and the family farm secure for the future.  For more information about the award, please see

The award will be given on 14 November 2005, during the Fifth Annual Iowa Organic Conference to be held in Ames, Iowa.

September 2005

BusinessWeek Online Highlights MBA-GPSA Minor Program

"B Schools That Do It Their Way," in the 5 September edition of BusinessWeek Online, focused on business-school programs around the US that offer students unique combinations of training packages that venture outside the framework of typical MBA curricula.  Among the programs highlighted was the College of Agriculture and College of Business collaboration at Iowa State that offers students the opportunity to earn an MBA with a sustainable agriculture minor. Please see BusinessWeek Online for the complete text of the article.

Four students are now participating in the program:  Kory Beidler, Scott Kincaid, Erik Schneider, and Andrea Spiker.  See the preceding news item for August 2005 for additional details.

August 2005

GPSA Enrolls Three New Students in Joint MBA-Sustainable Ag Minor Program

Scott Kincaid, Andrea Spiker, and Kory Beidler (pictured left to right) begin classes in Fall 2005 as the newest additions to the joint MBA-Sustainable Agriculture minor degree program, presently the only one of its kind offered in the US.  The program draws upon faculty expertise in the ISU College of Business and the Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture (GPSA) to produce graduates with a unique set of business skills who also possess sensitivity to issues of sustainability. photo of new	MBA-SusAg students
Photo courtesy of Leopold Center

The joint program began in Fall 2003, at which time its first student, Norm McCoy, enrolled.  Erik Schneider followed in Fall 2004.  Participants in the program take a full load of MBA courses in addition to 12 credits of sustainable agriculture coursework.  McCoy was the program's first graduate this past spring and has taken up management of a family farm in the Des Moines area.

All five students have been and will be supported by assistantships, provided through the Value Chain Partnerships for a Sustainable Agriculture (VCPSA) project, supported by a Kellogg Foundation grant and administered by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU.  Additional VCPSA partners include Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI), the ISU College of Agriculture, ISU Extension, and the Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture.  The project aims to bring together farmers, commodity groups, non-profit organizations, and university and community partners to address production, processing, distribution, and marketing issues in the food and fiber sector. Ultimately, the goal is to create value chains that reward small and mid-size farmers who employ production methods that involve high standards of environmental and community stewardship.

April 2005

GPSA Student Receives Fellowship from The Land Institute

Greg Shepherd has been named the recipient of a Natural Systems Agriculture Graduate Research Fellowship from The Land Institute.  The Natural Systems Agriculture program was inaugurated in 1998 to award fellowships of up to $9,000 per annum to graduate students to conduct research projects at the MS or PhD levels on university campuses.  More information about the program may be found at The Land Institute.

Greg is an MS student working with Heidi Asbjornsen in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management.

April 2005

Three GPSA Students Receive NCR SARE Grants

The USDA North Central Region (NCR) Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program has awarded research grants to three GPSA students at Iowa State:  Ryan Atwell, Hannah Lewis, and Valentin Picasso.

Summary information about their respective projects follows.

Ryan Atwell
Ryan Atwell

Agricultural Landscape Design through Participatory Modeling: Collaboration among Diverse Stakeholder Groups
Major Professor:
Lisa Schulte (NREM)

Hannah Lewis
Hannah Lewis

Assessing Feasibility of Entry into Entrepreneurial Agriculture for Mexican Immigrants in Marshalltown
Major Professor:
Jan Flora (Sociology)

Valentin Picasso
Valentin Picasso

Illinois Bundleflower:  A Perennial Multiple Purpose Third Crop for Iowa
Major Professor:
Charles Brummer (Agronomy)

This year the program received 38 proposals; a total of 15 were funded, with 3 coming to ISU, the maximum number awarded to any one institution.

SARE graduate student grants support thesis and dissertation projects that address questions in sustainable agriculture research.  Proposals are evaluated for their technical merit and relevance.  Past SARE awards have supported projects relating to producer profitability, environmental quality, and quality-of-life enhancements for producers, rural communities, and society as a whole.  For more information on the SARE program, see

GPSA students Parker Forsell and Andy Hegenstaller have also received SARE grants (see news item for April 2003 below).

May 2004

Sustainable Agriculture Program Chair Testifies Before Senate Agriculture Committee

Dr. Tom Richard testified on 6 May 2004 before the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee at a hearing focusing on use of agricultural products for energy generation.

May 2004

Khatounian is Program's First Doctoral Graduate

Dr. Carlos Khatounian has become the Program's first graduate to earn the PhD degree.  Dr. Khatounian, a member of the Program's first cohort (2001), researched the conversion to organic soybean production in southern Brazil by documenting the weed-suppressive characteristics of black oat mulch.  He was advised by Dr. Matt Liebman.  After finalizing publication drafts of his research typescripts, Dr. Khatounian will return to his native Brazil, where he is a recognized scientist in the field of organic agriculture.  He will resume his job as researcher with IAPAR, the state of Parana's agricultural research institution.

April 2004

Olmstead Receives Land Institute Graduate Researach Fellowship

Julia Olmstead has been awarded a Land Institute Graduate Research Fellowship.  Julia entered the program in January 2004 and is pursuing her degree with Charlie Brummer (Agronomy).  She is the third student of Brummer's to receive this unique support and recognition from The Land Institute.

Julia's fellowship project is:  "Comparative genetics for yield and yield stability in annual and perennial Medicago species." She will be doing genetic mapping work on Medicago truncatula, an annual relative of alfalfa, and comparing her results with other work Brummer's lab is doing on alfalfa.   M. truncatula is a model legume and is easy to grow.

One of the questions is whether the genetic basis of important traits in perennial alfalfa can be assessed in the annual (and diploid and autogamous) model.  The larger question, from the Land Institute's point of view, is what can be gleaned from annual crops and applied to perennials.

May 2003

The Program's First Graduates!

The Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture awarded its first degrees to three Master's students who completed their studies in Spring Term 2003:

Jennifer Bousselot

The Emergence Capabilities of Maize Landraces
Major Professor:
Deb Muenchrath (Agronomy)
Colorado State University Extension (Douglas County)

Garth Kelly

Method for Comparative Analysis of Agricultural Systems
Major Professors:
Mary Wiedenhoeft and Ricardo Salvador (Agronomy)
Employment: Forage Research, Iowa State University Agronomy Department

Ryan Rusk

Effect of Composted Swine Manure Ammendments on the Nitrogen Mineralization of Legume Green Manure
Major Professor: Mary Wiedenhoeft (Agronomy)
Northwest Research Farm, Iowa State University College of Agriculture

May 2003

Dr. Norman Uphoff Facilitates "Pathways to Sustainability" Workshop

The Director of Cornell University's International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development, Dr. Norman Uphoff, spoke and facilitated the concluding workshop of the project "Pathways to Sustainability:  Shaping Global Food and Agricultural Systems. " The project, funded by ISU's Council for International Programs, resulted from a proposal "Internationalization of the Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture through Faculty-Student Engagement," led by Drs. Lorna Michael Butler and Hsain Ilahiane (Anthropology Department), assisted by Paige Knutsen, MS student in GPSA.

April 2003

GPSA Students Receive SARE Awards

Parker Forsell (left) and Andy Heggenstaller (right) were each awarded a Graduate Student Grant from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.  Forsell was funded to develop case studies of various sustainable farms in the north central region for his PhD project: "Restoration Agriculture:  Resource Conservation and On-Farm Re-Cycling on Fourteen Farms in the North Central United States." Heggenstaller will use his funding to create various cropping systems models for use in the classroom, under a project titled: "Developing Educational Tools to Facilitate Systems Thinking in Sustainable Agriculture."  Forsell studies under major professors Fred Kirschenmann (Philosophy and Religious Studies) and Ricardo Salvador (Agronomy).  Heggenstaller is an MS student with Matt Liebman (Agronomy).

April 2003

Plath Accepts Offer to Join Community Food Alliance

GPSA student Pernell Plath has accepted an offer to work as Research Coordinator with Kentucky's Community Food Alliance, an organization devoted to preserving family farming and strengthening rural community life.  Plath assumed her duties in late May, saying that the job provided an ideal opportunity to work in exactly the professional role for which she has been preparing.  She hopes to conclude her thesis for the MS degree later this year.  Her project, which explores the technical support needs of women landowners in Cass County, Iowa, has been conducted in cooperation with the "Women, Food and Agriculture Network."  Pernell has extensive experience in organization, having served as coordinator for various initiatives during her time at ISU, including the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Agricultural Rural Development, the Student Organic Farm, and the Global Agricultural Science and Policy Initiative.  Her major professor is Ricardo Salvador (Agronomy).

April 2003

GPSA Student Receives Graduate Fellowship from the Land Institute

Valentín Picasso was one of seven students selected from a nationwide pool to receive a 2003 Natural Systems Agriculture Graduate Research Fellowship from The Land Institute.  The fellowship provides funding specifically to promote "a new perspective and enthusiasm for science and technology research that is explicitly informed by considerations of public interest and ecological sustainability."   Picasso's research project will be:   "The role of functional diversity in the establishment phase of perennial polycultures."  Picasso, a PhD student with Charlie Brummer (Agronomy), joins fellow GPSA student Fred Iutzi, also a student of Brummer's, who received a Land Institute Fellowship in 2002, which was renewed for 2003.  More information about the Land Institute program may be found at

April 2003

Iowa State MBA Program to Offer Minor in Sustainable Ag

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) program in Iowa State University's College of Business will incorporate a sustainable agriculture minor and two new graduate assistantships next fall.  For full details, please see

The new MBA/GPSA-minor combines some of the coursework from ISU's Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture (GPSA) in the College of Agriculture.  The GPSA, which began in 2001, was the first graduate program of its kind among land grant universities.

December 2002

Meet the Leopold Scholars

In 2000, the Leopold Center Advisory Board approved funds for up to three years for a graduate assistantship in Iowa State University's newly created Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture (GPSA).  For each of the past two years, the Center has helped sponsor a new student entering the GPSA program at ISU.

Currently, the Center provides partial support for three outstanding Leopold Scholars:

Xiaofan Niu
Shenyang, China,
enrolled Fall 2001,
advised by X.B. Yang, Plant Pathology

Karie Wiltshire
Indianapolis, Indiana
enrolled Fall 2002,
advised by Kathleen Delate, Agronomy and Horticulture

Erin Tegtmeier
Chicago, Illinois
enrolled Spring 2002,
advised by associate director Mike Duffy, Economics