Wind turbines 'help crops', say US researchers

By John Dean - 04 Jan 2011 14:15:0 GMT
Wind turbines 'help crops', say US researchers

Research conducted by American scientists has suggested that wind turbines operating on Midwestern farm fields may be good for crop production.

The research suggests that the turbine blades that generate renewable energy might also help corn and soybean crops stay cooler and drier, help them fend off fungal infestations and improving their ability to extract growth-enhancing carbon dioxide from the air and soil.

The findings were revealed by researcher Gene Takle of the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, and Julie Lundquist, assistant professor in the University of Colorado at Boulder's atmospheric and oceanic studies department.

Gene Takle, who is also is the director of the Climate Science Program at Iowa State University, said: “We've finished the first phase of our research, and we're confident that wind turbines do produce measureable effects on the microclimate near crops.”

Julie Lundquist said: “Because wind turbines generate turbulence and the mixing of air downwind, they may accelerate the natural exchange processes between crops and the lower part of the atmosphere.”

According to the team, when the sun warms crops, some of that heat is given off to the atmosphere. Extra air turbulence speeds up the heat exchange, so crops may stay slightly cooler on hot days. And on cold nights, the turbulence created by turbines stirs the lower atmosphere and keeps nighttime temperatures near crops warmer.

In addition, extra turbulence may help dry the dew that settles on plants, reducing the risk of fungi and toxins growing on leaves

Gene Takle said: “We anticipate the impact of wind turbines to be subtle but in certain years, and under certain circumstances, the effects could be significant. When you think about a summer with a string of 105-degree days, extra wind turbulence from wind turbines might be helpful. If turbines can bring the temperature down below 100 degrees that could be a big help for crops."