More than half of the farmland in Iowa is rented, and the areas of the state containing the most fertile agricultural land have tenancy rates ranging between 61 and 70 percent, according to research released yesterday by Drake University's Agricultural Law Center and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.

The Sustainable Agricultural Land Tenure Initiative researched farm lease agreements and compiled resources for landowners about how farms leases can be used to encourage soil conservation, which are available on a new website, SustainableFarmLease.org.

The two-year study analyzed legal questions relating to Iowa farmland ownership and the transfer of land to a new generation of farmers. Key findings include:

-More than half (55 percent) of Iowa's farmland is owned by people over the age of 65, and 28 percent of the land is owned by people older than 75.

-Eighty percent of Iowa's leases are year-to-year tenancies.

-Children and spouses of farmers are less likely to continue operating the farm.

Officials say it's important to let landowners and tenants know their options, which is the new website's purpose.

"The land is changing hands. The characteristics of landowners are going to change," said Edward Cox, staff attorney at the Drake University Agricultural Law Center. "I think the numbers and statistics represent an opportunity to change the way we look at lease arrangements and see how we can continue to have landowner involvement even though many landowners will live away from the land, and might not have an agricultural background."