Southeast Iowa Agroforestry Demonstration

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2000: $9,650.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Federal Funds: $1,000.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $3,500.00
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Christa Perkins

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: native plants, trees


  • Crop Production: agroforestry
  • Education and Training: demonstration
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance


    The initial focus of this demonstration was to show the economic benefits of establishing for harvest several monoculture beds containing local ecotype forbs and medicinals between existing rows of trees. While the system itself shows promise, a number of problems were encountered in this project relating to the intense management required to demonstrate the original project objectives. The initial project designers had assumed a greater interest by the partners and under-estimated coordination time required by the sponsor.

    Despite issues related to management, this project has lead to an increased interest in a potentially valuable management system using warm season and cool season grasses. The resulting system of double cropping both warm and cool season species in the same field has anecdotal benefits that will be analyzed in a follow up project with Iowa State University. Long-term management of demonstration fields established in Southern Iowa at the Des Moines County Landfill can provide further information on system viability.

    The positive outcome noted above is the design and likely implementation of a more detailed research and demonstration effort to be carried out by Iowa Native Lands, Inc., Iowa State University and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Sponsors of this project will continue to monitor progress for the benefit of Southeastern Iowa landowners and would encourage others interested in Agroforestry, double cropping and productive use of marginal land to do the same.


    One of the primary goals of the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is to idle marginal, highly erodible cropland. Further, current eligibility criteria clearly shows how the USDA is encouraging landowners to plant trees on their enrolled acres. One of the main drawbacks, from the landowner’s point of view, is the lack of economic return on their investment between the end of the CRP contract and until the trees reach economic maturity.

    Our original agroforestry demonstration (1993-1999) was conducted to make agroforestry practices more acceptable to landowners, however, the format chosen has been completed. Our current plans are to enhance the original concept and seed high value, local eco-type forbs and medicinal amongst our existing trees. This again, is an attempt to convince landowners of the importance and economic viability of such soil conservation practices.

    Project objectives:

    • Show landowners the environmental benefits of agroforestry

      Encourage them to convert marginal cropland to more environmentally beneficial land uses.

      Demonstrate to private entrepreneurs the economic potential of growing, harvesting, and selling multiple crops to maximize the use of local ecotype forbs and medicinal.

      Help local leaders preserve through propagation irreplaceable local ecotype forbs and medicinals.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.