Tomatoes and solar panels could go well together
Added on 01 December 2022
This story was first published by the Energy News Network.
Drought and extreme heat in California’s Central Valley in recent years has meant shortages of tomatoes, particularly “processing tomatoes” used for sauce and ketchup. And such conditions are only expected to get worse with climate change.
Researchers note that the relatively nascent field of agrivoltaics — growing crops below and between solar panels — could offer help to the country’s billion-dollar-plus tomato industry.
Shade provided by solar panels can help conserve water, create humidity and lower temperatures that can become too much even for heat-loving tomatoes.
An August paper by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory surveying agrivoltaic research sites across the country noted that on average, tomato yields doubled compared to non-agrivoltaic sites, whereas other crops like wheat, cucumbers, potatoes and lettuce showed negative impacts.
When it is too hot, tomatoes will abort the development of fruit from flowers since the plant senses that the fruit won’t flourish. Solar panels cool the air down enough to avoid this process, research has shown. And most importantly in a place like California, where the vast majority of the nation’s tomatoes are grown, solar panels can mean significantly less irrigation is needed.
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