Crops And Wind Turbines

Wind farms are popping up all over my state of Iowa. It’s usually a positive experience for the landowners, but a team of plant and soil scientists wondered if it was the same for the crops growing in the vicinity of the wind turbines and if it changes the microclimate for corn and soybeans.

Gene Takle is an agronomy professor at Iowa State University. He says since 2009, they’ve been studying a crop area around a wind turbine about three football fields in size. They found several benefits. One is, the turbulence moves plants around, allowing sunlight to penetrate deeper into the crop canopy. It also provides the plants with a boost of carbon dioxide.

"There are pressure fluctuations created by the turbines that actually contribute to a pumping of carbon dioxide out of the soil," he says. "And so, you can almost think of the crop as being fed carbon dioxide from below, from the soil, and also from above by the turbulence in the atmosphere."

At night as the air cools, the wind turbine stirs the air and prevents it from drawing moisture and cooling down as quickly around the plants.

"The mixing of the air suppresses dew formation in the early evening, and that’s a good thing because the longer the dew period, the more favorable are the conditions for fungus, mold, and other pathogens that could affect some of our crops," says Takle.

On the negative side is the tendency of higher nighttime temperatures in the area. But Takle says overall, their study indicates crops grown around wind farms seem to benefit from it.