Interaction Between Atmospheric Flow and Agricultural Crops and Its Implications for the Water Cycle

September 21, 2020

Technion researchers have established a physical model of a corn field at the Technion’s Environmental Wind Tunnel in order to investigate the interaction between turbulent atmospheric wind flows and crops, with special emphasis on step changes in roughness such as bare ground to crop field transitions.

The group is led by Associate Professor Dan Liberzon of the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Assistant Professor René Van Hout of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering.

The research is funded by the U.S. – Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) in collaboration with the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). In parallel with the Technion’s physical model experiments, computer simulations of a similar flow-canopy system are being conducted by Professor William Anderson of the University of Texas at Dallas, USA.
Turbulent winds over agricultural areas have significant implications for crops. Among other things, air flows affect the important process of evapotranspiration, i.e. the rate at which the plants loose moisture through evaporation from their leaves. Studying the effects of turbulent vortices on evapotranspiration rates will lead to a knowledge base facilitating the development of economical and efficient irrigation plans based on wind forecast models.

This study focuses on large-scale turbulent air flows, generated near the edges of canopies, for example between fields of different vegetative canopies such as transition between a forest and an agricultural field or transition between different agricultural crops. For the measurements, the Technion researchers set up a physical model of a corn field in the Environmental Wind Tunnel in the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The model is an array of specially designed elements representing corn in terms of its ”porosity” to the upstream winds. The elements are designed such that they can be set up in different spatial arrangements. The measurements are performed using state-of-the-art instrumentation capable of producing high spatial and temporal resolution data of wind speed, turbulence, plant-air heat transfer rates, and plant water evaporation rates.

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