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Effects of windbreaks on airflow, microclimates and crop yields

Abstract

The mechanisms by which a porous windbreak modifies airflow, microclimates and hence crop yields are addressed, based upon recent wind tunnel experiments, field observations and numerical modelling. This paper is thus an update to the excellent reviews in Brandle (1988). It shows how a turbulent mixing layer initiated at the top of the windbreak dominates the airflow behind a windbreak. This mixing layer spreads vertically as it moves downwind, growing at a rate determined by the turbulence in the approach flow and the windbreak's ‘permeability’. The roughness of the terrain and land-cover upwind, windbreak height and porosity are thus the main controls on the amount and extent of shelter provided by a windbreak. The changes in temperature, humidity, heat and evaporation fluxes given these changes in turbulence are then described. Based on the turbulent mixing layer model, the highly sheltered ‘quiet zone’ will be typically warmer and more humid while further downwind in the ‘wake zone’, cooler and drier conditions would be expected. The careful experimental studies needed to verify these theoretical predictions have not yet been published. Shade is also shown to modify the heating in the quiet zone and, depending on the orientation of the windbreak, can offset the warming in the quiet zone. Lastly, the mechanisms affecting plant productivity are described in light of these airflow and microclimate changes. A major effect of a windbreak is to reduce the incidence of low frequency, high magnitude damage events such as sandblasting or lodging. Microclimate effects, however, do not always improve productivity. For example, while shelter may improve water-use efficiency in irrigated crops by increasing yields and reducing water-use, this may not be the case in dryland agriculture.

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Cleugh, H.A. Effects of windbreaks on airflow, microclimates and crop yields. Agroforestry Systems 41, 55–84 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1006019805109

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  • evaporation
  • turbulence