Pesek Colloquium


Dr. John Pesek, Emeritus Professor of Agronomy

"The science of sustained yield, whether with soil, trees, or with life that lives on the grass and wanders through the forests, or fishes that swim in the water, is paramount to human welfare."
--H. A. Wallace

John Pesek Colloquium on Sustainable Agriculture

The Pesek Colloquium is intended to encourage discussion about and community engagement with topics vital to agricultural sustainability. The event is named for Dr. John Pesek, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences and professor of agronomy at Iowa State University. Dr. Pesek passed away in February 2019 at age 97 after a long and distinguished career. His contributions in the areas of soil fertility, crop production, and the economics of fertilizer use led to a better understanding of the effects of management practices on the environment and crop production. Dr. Pesek was named a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, the Soil Science Society of America, Crop Science Society of America, the Iowa Academy of Science, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He served as president of both the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America and helped establish the nation's first National Soil Tilth Laboratory, a USDA-ARS facility in Ames, IA (now called the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment).

Speaking at the first Pesek Colloquium on Sustainable Agriculture in March 2001, Dr. Pesek called attention to the inextricable link between agricultural sustainability and humankind:

“Sustainability of an agriculture that is environmentally benign in relation to world resources, population and the environment is a serious issue – perhaps the central issue for the human race . . . We are overdue in adopting new policies – replacing the old with those that are better and safer for farmers, healthier for consumers, kinder to the environment and ultimately sustainable. After all, we will depend on agriculture for food forever. Even if we do not look forward any farther than we look back to the beginning of agriculture, we are speaking not of decades or centuries but of thousands of years. And our population continues to grow.”

Recent Speakers

2019. Dr. David Montgomery, a professor at the University of Washington and a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, made a second appearance in the Pesek Colloquium to present a lecture titled Bringing Our Soil Back to Life. His lecture served as a fine tribute to Dr. Pesek.

2016. Dr. Keith Paustian, Professor of Soil and Crop Sciences and Senior Research Scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University, made a presentation titled Climate Smart Soils – Bringing Pie in the Sky Down to Earth. The event was co-sponsored by the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Sustainability Task Force.

2014. Dr. Kate Scow, Professor of Soil Science and Soil Microbial Ecologist at the University of California–Davis, and Ms. Deborah Koons Garcia, filmmaker, presented a lecture titled Communicating Science Through Stories in Film:A Dialogue about Agricultural Sustainability and Soil. The event was co-sponsored by Pierre Lecture Series in Soil Science.

2013. Dr. David Montgomery, Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, presented a lecture titled Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations.

2012. Dr. Erle Ellis, Professor of Geography and Environmental Systems, University of Maryland–Baltimore County, spoke about Agriculture in the Anthropocene: Growing a Sustainable Human Ecology.

2011. Mr. Andrew Revkin, New York Times journalist and lecturer at Pace University’s Academy for Applied Environmental Sciences, presented a lecture titled 9 Billion People + 1 Planet = ?

2010. Mr. Bill McKibben, a writer and environmentalist from Vermont, spoke on Sustaining Life on a Tough New Planet.

2009. Dr. Shahid Naeem, Professor and former Chair of Columbia University's Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology spoke about The Environmental Significance of Biodiversity in Managed and Unmanaged Ecosystems:  From China, to Sub-Saharan Africa, the Great Plains, and Iowa.

2008. Dr. Robert Costanza, former Gund Professor of Ecological Economics and Director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont, spoke about Ecological Economics: Creating a Sustainable and Desirable Future.


Henry A. Wallace meeting with Iowa farmers.

Earlier Colloquia

2007. Cynthia Rosenzweig (PDF 823 KB)

2006. Calestous Juma (PDF 465 KB)

2005. Hunter Lovins (PDF 811 KB)

2004. Daryll E. Ray (PDF 1155 KB)

2003. Frances Moore Lappé (PDF 618 KB)

2002. Per Pinstrup-Anderson (PDF 25 KB)

2001. John Pesek (PDF 65 KB)