New research from Iowa State University suggests that the airflow from wind turbines can make crops more abundant
A multi-year study led by Gene Takle, a Distinguished Professor of agronomy and geological and atmospheric sciences at the university, said tall wind turbines sited throughout a field creates air turbulence that may help plants by affecting things like temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations.
Takle and his team installed research towers on a 200-turbine wind farm. The research towers collected data from 2010 to 2013 on wind speeds and directions, temperature, humidity, turbulence, gas content and precipitation. The project aimed to discover how the turbulence created when wind moves through the turbines affects conditions at ground level where crops grow.
Takle said the team’s data show that the wind turbines have a measurable impact on several key variables that affect growing conditions. It’s more difficult to pin down whether those changes affect crop performance, but Takle said wind turbines may make growing conditions more favourable for corn and soyabeans.
“On balance, it seems turbines have a small, positive impact on crops,” he said.
Takle said turbines can change the temperature in the areas around them. The research team’s data show that turbulence produced by wind turbines leads to temperatures about a half degree cooler during the day and between a half to a full degree warmer at night.
That is because the turbulence mixes air at different elevations. That mixing cools the ground level during the daylight hours, like a fan blowing on a wet surface, Takle said. But at night, as the ground loses heat, the mixing brings warmer air aloft down to ground level, resulting in a net warming effect.
The turbulence also suppresses the formation of dew and dries the crops, Takle said, which could combat harmful moulds and fungi.
These are obviously preliminary findings which need further research but if wind turbines can increase crop yields, then this could be another benefit of installing them on farmland.
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