October 1, 2017.
In the desert, native plants respond to the hottest part of the day by either closing their stomata, which would stop photosynthesis, or by simply reducing their photosynthesis rates due to heat stress. Soil water resources are also impacted due to significant evaporation. If plants have more shade during the day, will they photosynthesize more in the afternoon than plants without shade? Will these plants with shade transpire less, and thus need to be watered less? This study takes a look at plants which have grown under a photovoltaics array (a new agriculture practice called agrivoltaics) as well as plants which have grown in the open (modeling traditional agriculture practices). It was hypothesized the agrivoltaics practice will benefit plants by providing them shade and retaining soil moisture during the day as well as benefiting the photovoltaics by keeping them cooler to increase their efficiency. This study was designed to determine whether growing under the photovoltaic panels is beneficial, by collecting and analyzing data on photosynthesis (carbon uptake) and transpiration (water loss) rates of 8+ different species. These measurements will help answer which plants are best suited for being planted in an agrivoltaics installation.
Biosphere 2 (B2)
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program under Grant # 1340110. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The research was also made possible by the California State University STEM Teacher and Researcher Program, in partnership with Chevron (www.chevron.com), the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (www.marinesanctuary.org) and Biosphere 2.