Cropping System Diversification Offers a Path to Greater Sustainability

Diversification can be key to productivity

March 3, 2021, 12:32 pm | Hilary Pierce

Oats in a field.AMES, Iowa – Learn about the benefits of cropping system diversification during the Iowa Learning Farms webinar on Wednesday, March 10 at noon.  

Matt Liebman, professor of agronomy and H. A. Wallace chair for sustainable agriculture at Iowa State University, will share the results of a long-term study at the Iowa State Marsden Farm. The results of this study indicate that diversification of conventional corn-soybean systems with small grains and forage legumes, coupled with integration with livestock production, can allow for large reductions in the use of fertilizers and herbicides and lead to less environmental damage, equivalent profitability, improved soil quality and higher crop productivity.

“There’s a lot to be gained from diversifying cropping practices. Across many different countries, for many different climates and soils types, with many different crops, the general pattern is that with diversification, you maintain or increase crop yields while gaining environmental benefits,” said Liebman. “More than 80% of Iowa’s cropland is used to produce just two crops: corn and soybean. That limits what can be accomplished with regard to environmental quality. In many cases, it also limits crop yields and increases requirements for purchased inputs like fertilizer and pesticides.”

Liebman’s research, teaching and outreach activities focus on ways to use ecological processes for reducing reliance on fertilizers, pesticides and fossil fuels while increasing agricultural productivity and better protecting soil, water and wildlife.

Webinar Access Instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before noon on March 10, click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: Or, go to and enter meeting ID 364 284 172. 

To join from a dial-in phone line,  dial +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923; meeting ID 364 284 172.

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the CEU will be provided at the end of the live webinar.


Original photo: Oats at the Iowa State University Marsden Farm, courtesy of Matt Liebman.

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