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Wind turbines may benefit crops
Date:12/16/2010

dquist stressed that their early findings have yet to definitively establish whether or not wind turbines are in fact beneficial to the health and yield potential of soybeans and corn planted nearby. However, their finding that the turbines increase airflow over surrounding crops, suggests this is a realistic possibility.

"The turbulence resulting from wind turbines may speed up natural exchange processes between crop plants and the lower atmosphere," Takle said.

For instance, crops warm up when the sun shines on them, and some of that heat is given off to the atmosphere. Extra air turbulence likely speeds up this heat exchange, so crops stay slightly cooler during hot days. On cold nights, turbulence stirs the lower atmosphere and keeps nighttime temperatures around the crops warmer.

"In this case, we anticipate turbines' effects are good in the spring and fall because they would keep the crop a little warmer and help prevent a frost," said Takle. "Wind turbines could possibly ward off early fall frosts and extend the growing season."

Other benefits of wind turbines could result from their effects on crop moisture levels. Extra turbulence may help dry the dew that settles on plants beginning in late afternoon, minimizing the amount of time fungi and toxins can grow on plant leaves. Additionally, drier crops at harvest help farmers reduce the cost of artificially drying corn or soybeans.

Another potential benefit to crops is that increased airflows could enable corn and soybean plants to more readily extract atmospheric CO2, a needed "fuel" for crops. The extra turbulence might also pump extra CO2 from the soil. Both results could facilitate the crops ability to perform photosynthesis.

Takle's wind turbine predictions are based on years of research on so-called agricultural shelter belts, which are the rows of trees in a field, designed to slow high-speed natural winds.

"In a simplistic sense, a wind tu
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Contact: Steve Karsjen
karsjen@ameslab.gov
515-294-5643
DOE/Ames Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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