Iowa State University

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Henry A. Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture

The Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture

Dr. Matt Liebman, Iowa State University agronomy professor, became the new Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture on July 1, 2007. He succeeded Dr. Lorna Michael Butler who served as Chair from 2000 to 2007. Dr. Liebman is a graduate of Harvard University and obtained his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. In 2009, he was selected as an American Society of Agronomy Fellow. He was awarded the Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award from Practical Farmers of Iowa in 2013. His scientific research focuses on cropping system diversification, conservation systems, and weed ecology and management.

Liebman and image of Henry Wallace

Matt Liebman with image of Henry A. Wallace
Photo courtesy of Rod


David N. Sundberg, 1958-2014


Dave Sundberg died unexpectedly in his sleep on May 4, 2014. Dave was employed as an Agricultural Specialist and worked in the Agronomy Department at Iowa State University for 32 years. He was a vital member of the Liebman team, leading research activities in the field and in the lab. His attention to detail, careful planning, knowledge of farming practices, and hard work were essential to the successes achieved in projects undertaken by the Liebman research team.

Dave was born in Storm Lake and grew up working with his father on their family farm near Linn Grove. His love of farming and Iowa land was apparent throughout his life. He studied agronomy at ISU and graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees.

Dave is survived by his wife, Nancy, and two children, Michael and Hanna.



Liebman Receives 2013 Spencer Award

Matt Liebman was presented the 2013 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture at a meeting of the Leopold Center Advisory Board on December 5. The award recognizes the work of those who have 'made significant contributions to the advancement of ecological and economic practices that will make agriculture sustainable and the family farm secure for the future.' The award was established in 2001 and serves as a memorial to Norman and Margaretha Spencer. To learn more about the award and read remarks from the presentation, see here.

2013 Pesek Colloquium

The 2013 John Pesek Colloquium on Sustainable Agriculture was held on September 23 in the Memorial Union on the Iowa State University campus. This year's speaker was David Montgomery, Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington. The title of the lecture was Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations. The lecture outlined the natural and cultural history of past civilizations and how soil use and abuse shaped those communities. He also presented a solution-oriented approach to the problem of soil degradation and erosion. About 630 people attended the event. A podcast of the lecture can be found here.

The event was sponsored by: Department of Agronomy; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; Ecology, Evolution & Organismal Biology; Geological & Atmospheric Sciences; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Plant Sciences Institute; Practical Farmers of Iowa; Graduate Program on Sustainable Agriculture; and Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB).

Cropping Study Featured on Drovers CattleNetwork

A report of the Marsden Farm cropping system study was featured on the Drovers CattleNetwork website in April 2013. Results of the study point to the positive benefits of incorporating cattle production within farming systems. Read the report, written by Chuck Jolley, here.

Two Publications Released Concerning the Benefits of Biodiversity in Agricultural Systems

Two articles recently published in the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems examine the potential benefits of increasing biological diversity within agricultural ecosystems. The first article, “Targeting perennial vegetation in agricultural landscapes for enhancing ecosystem services,” reviews research conducted throughout the world and was written by Heidi Asbjornsen (University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH), Virginia Hernández-Santana (Instituto de Recursos Naturales y AgrobiologĂ­a, Sevilla, Spain), Matt Liebman (Iowa State University), Jules Bayala (World Agroforestry Center, Bamako, Mali), Jiquan Chen (University of Toledo, Toledo, OH), Matt Helmers (Iowa State University), Chin Ong (World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi, Kenya), and Lisa Schulte (Iowa State University). The second article, “Using biodiversity to link agricultural productivity with environmental quality: results from three field experiments in Iowa,” assesses research conducted in Iowa and was authored by Matt Liebman, Lisa Schulte, Matt Helmers, and Craig Chase (Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Iowa State University). Abstracts for the articles can be downloaded here and here.

Cropping Study Featured on IPR Program

The results from a long-term cropping systems study were the focus of the Talk of Iowa program, October 31, on Iowa Public Radio. Adam Davis, Ann Johanns, and Matt Liebman were among the guests on the call-in show. Results of the study, conducted at the ISU Marsden Farm, show that longer-term rotations can result in higher yields, lower energy and chemical use, and economic returns comparable to conventional corn-soybean rotations. An article about the study was recently published in a PLOS ONE, an online peer-reviewed journal. The IPR program can be heard at The PLOS ONE article can be downloaded here.

Publication Released in Online Journal

An article detailing the results of the cropping-systems project at the ISU Marsden Farm has been published in PLOS ONE, an online peer-reviewed journal. The article, "Increasing cropping system diversity balances productivity, profitability and environmental health," was written by Adam Davis, USDA-ARS weed ecologist in Urbana, Illinois; Matt Liebman, ISU agronomist and project leader; Craig Chase, ISU economist; Ann Johanns, ISU Extension economist; and Jason Hill, University of Minnesota ecologist. Results of the study show that longer-term rotations can result in higher yields, lower energy and chemical use, and economic returns comparable to conventional corn-soybean rotations. More information about this research project can be read at the Leopold Center website here. The PLOS ONE article can be downloaded here (PDF) or read at the PLOS ONE website.

Report Issued on Energy/Economic Returns by Crop Rotation

A publication issued in September 2012 by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach focuses on the energy use and economic returns of three different crop rotations. The report, written by Ann Johanns, Craig Chase, and Matt Liebman, uses research from the Marsden Farm project, a study of the agronomic and economic effects of two, three, and four year crop rotations. The title of the publication is Energy and Economic Returns by Crop Rotation. Read the report here.

Diversifying Corn-Soybean Rotations

A new brochure, Diversifying Corn-Soybean Rotations, has been developed and released by the Leopold Center. The brochure details research results from a project led by Matt Liebman. Other investigators include Craig Chase, Leopold Center; Tom Sauer and Mark Tomer, USDA Agricultural Research Service; and Michelle Wander, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Results from the project find that adding diversity to conventional corn-soybean crop rotations can reduce the need for farm inputs and increase yields of corn and soybean. The brochure is available here. To read the full press release, visit the Leopold Center website. This project was supported by funding from The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative, Iowa Soybean Association, and Organic Center.

STRIPS Project at Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge

An interdisciplinary team of scientists is evaluating the benefits of incorporating small strips of perennial plantings within or near conventional row-cropping systems. The team believes that integrating these strips in row-cropped watersheds will improve water, nutrient, and carbon cycling and dramatically increase the richness and diversity of plants and animals within the landscape. The project is being conducted at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge, a conservation and education center located in central Iowa. Included in the team of researchers is Matt Liebman and his graduate student, Sarah Hirsh. A link to information on STRIPS (Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairies) can be found here.

An article in the November 2011 edition of the Ohio Farmer highlights some of the benefits of planting prairie grass strips within cropping systems. Some members of the STRIPS Project were interviewed for the article. A PDF of the story can be found here.

Longer Rotations Could Provide Key to Fighting SDS in Soybean

Iowa State agronomist Matt Liebman has been studying various aspects of extending the conventional corn-soybean rotation with small grains and forages for eight seasons. He has documented many benefits, including the need for fewer purchased inputs made from fossil fuels while maintaining high levels of production. Another benefit of longer rotations has surfaced, puzzling him and other researchers at Iowa State. Soybean in three-year rotations with corn, oat and red clover, and in four-year rotations with corn, oat and alfalfa, seemed to escape the worst effects of Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS). The rotation effects were observed in research that Liebman set up eight years ago with a grant from the Leopold Center. See full story here. A grant recently awarded by the Iowa Soybean Association will help support further research into these effects. Leonor Leandro, Assistant Professor in Plant Pathology, will lead a team in studying how production practices may impact the development and severity of SDS.


Portrait of Wallace
Henry A. Wallace