AMES, Iowa — The wind turbines that have been popping up across Iowa may be good for the corn and soybean fields that surround them, according to an Iowa State University researcher who collected data from fields around the turbines last summer.
Gene Takle, a professor of geological and atmospheric science, said it appears the turbines may help moderate ground level temperatures, blow away moisture that can grow fungi and stir up air, exposing plants to more growth-promoting carbon dioxide.
"We anticipate the impact of wind turbines to be subtle," said Takle, who presented his findings last week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
The Des Moines Register reported that Takle collected wind fluctuations, temperature changes and carbon dioxide from fields adjacent to turbines last summer.
Takle was joined by University of Colorado researcher Julie Lundquist who used a laser to determine that the turbines create a plume of turbulence 250 high and a quarter-mile downwind.
He said the anticipated effects of turbines would be keeping crops warmer in the fall and spring helping to prevent frost and keeping crops cooler on hot summer days.
But he also raised concern about the possible negative effects of turbines on crops, suggesting they could be harmful to plants during a drought.
"This is an issue no one has raised before," Takle said. "When people do impacts of wind turbines they .. think about birds, bats, noise and radar interference. They really don't consider impacts on the environment."
Takle said more study needs to be done in different types of weather and earlier and later in the growing season.
"The next step is to ask whether these changes that we are now actually measuring are of significant magnitude to actually change plant growth," he said. "Will it enhance yield?"