Increased air turbulence created by wind turbines might have beneficial effects on crops, researchers have found. Slow-moving turbine blades channel air downwards, in effect bathing the crops below via the increased airflow they create.
Whether or not the increased airflow has positive effects on crops such as corn and soybeans has yet to be determined, the researchers stress. But ôthe turbulence resulting from wind turbines may speed up natural exchange processes between crop plants and the lower atmosphere,ö says Gene Takle from the Ames Laboratory.
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 probably speeds up this heat exchange so that crops stay slightly cooler on hot days. On cold nights, turbulence stirs the lower atmosphere and keeps night-time temperatures around the crops warmer.
ôIn this case, we anticipate the effects of the turbines to be good in the spring and autumn because they would keep the crop a little warmer and help prevent a frost,ö says Takle. He says that wind turbines could possibly ward off early autumn 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 and thus 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, and might also pump extra CO2 from the soil. Both results could facilitate the cropsĺ ability to perform photosynthesis.