Wind turbines have long been noted as a means for America’s struggling farmers to increase their profits-per-acre, while giving utility companies access to wide-open, windy spaces. As it turns out, that check from Wind Power, Inc. may not be the only benefit to farmers hosting turbines on their land, as researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and Colorado University have found that turbines may help to channel beneficial breezes over farm crops.
At the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, Ames Laboratory associate and agricultural meteorology expert Gene Takle, along with his co-researcher Julie Lundquist, an assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder, presented preliminary findings of a months-long research program aimed at studying how wind turbines on farmlands interact with surrounding crops.
The takeaway? Those giant turbine blades that benefit the local grid with renewable energy may also help corn and soybean crops fend off infestations of fungus by staying cooler and dryer while simultaneously improving the plants’ ability to extract beneficial carbon dioxide from the air and soil.
“We’ve finished the first phase of our research, and we’re confident that wind turbines do produce measurable effects on the microclimate near crops,” said Takle, who is also a professor of agricultural meteorology and director of the Climate Science Program at Iowa State University, in a statement. He goes on to note that the slow-moving turbine blades that have become a familiar sight along Midwestern highways work to channel air downwards, in effect bathing the crops below in the increased airflow they create.
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