While generating green electricity, wind power might also help crops

A report out of Ames, Iowa suggests that wind turbines in farm fields may be helping crops of corn and soybeans to have increased yields because they can remain cooler and dryer in hot summer months while fighting off fungal infestations.

Preliminary findings of a months-long research program aimed at studying how wind turbines on farmlands interact with surrounding crops also raises the possibility that rotating wind turbine blades improve the ability of corn and soybeans to extract atmospheric CO2, a needed “fuel” for crops, according to a press release.

“The extra turbulence might also pump extra CO2 from the soil,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory press release. “Both results could facilitate the crops ability to perform photosynthesis.”

Ames Laboratory associate and agricultural meteorology expert Gene Takle and his co-researcher, Julie Lundquist, assistant professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, at the University of Colorado, said more work still needs to be done before a definitive conclusion can be reached.

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

The press release noted that Takle said the wind turbine blades channel air downwards, in effect bathing the crops below via the increased airflow they create.

The release added that a specialised laser used by Lundquist to measure winds and turbulence from near the Earth’s surface to well above the top tip of a turbine blade detected “a beautiful plume of increased turbulence” far from the turbine.

Takle was also quoted as saying that wind turbines could possibly extend the growing season by keeping crops warmer in the spring and fall and cooler in the summer.

“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,” the release added. “Additionally, drier crops at harvest help farmers reduce the cost of artificially drying corn or soybeans.”

By Chris Rose, blog.ewea.org/