Wind farms may boost Iowa’s agricultural farms

Dec. 14, 2016

Iowa has been achieving impressive results with wind power. As previously reported, wind provided 31.3% of Iowa’s power in 2015—a larger share than any other state.

Now, it turns out, wind turbines may be helping Iowa’s crops, according to a multiyear study led by Gene Takle, a distinguished professor of agronomy and geological and atmospheric sciences at Iowa State University.

Takle and his team installed research towers on a 200-turbine wind farm and collected data from 2010 to 2013 on wind speeds and directions, temperature, humidity, turbulence, gas content, and precipitation. The project aimed to discover how the turbulence created when wind moves through the turbines affects conditions at ground level where crops grow.

“On balance, it seems turbines have a small, positive impact on crops,” Takle said, as reported at Newswise. He said that turbulence from the turbines mixes air at different elevations, and the result is slightly cooler temperatures during the day and slightly warmer ones at night.

In addition, the turbines suppress the formation of dew, which could combat harmful molds and fungi. In addition, the turbulence may also boost carbon dioxide content surrounding the crops, making them grow more efficiently.

“The next step would be to answer if this turbulence changes biomass uptake of plants, or if it affects plant size or functions or yield,” he said. “It’s going to be much harder to find those answers because of all the other factors at play in a field, such as variations in soil quality or precipitation.”

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