Wheat grows better in agrivoltaic system

01 Apr , 2024

New findings from Italy suggest that wheat cultivation in elevated agrivoltaic systems may lead to better-quality crops with enhanced nutritional value, particularly beneficial for livestock. A collaborative effort by the CNR Institute for Bioeconomy, the University of Florence, and agrivoltaic specialist REM Tec srl, investigated the performance of wheat in an agrivoltaic setup spanning 11.4 hectares in Borgo Virgilio, Mantua province.

The experiment utilized 7,680 Bisol panels and 768 trackers positioned at a height of 4.5 meters, covering approximately 1.3 hectares. Dividing the area into sections, the team compared wheat growth under different levels of photovoltaic coverage. They observed three sections with a ground coverage ratio (GCR) of 13%, three with a GCR of 41%, and three reference sections devoid of panels and shading structures.

Over two years of experimentation, researchers noted a limited reduction in wheat yield during the waxy maturation phase under standard trackers (GCR = 13%). However, in panels with increased shading (GCR = 41%), the reduction reached 29.6%. Lucrezia Ghidesi, Business Developer at REM Tec srl, highlighted, “The reduction in irradiation significantly altered the stature of wheat plants, impacting the quality of the fodder biomass.”

Analyzing various parameters including dry matter, ash, crude protein content, and fiber fractions, the study revealed that shading influenced protein and fiber composition in wheat biomass, alongside digestibility for ruminant feed. “Digestible neutral detergent fiber, evaluated after 24 hours of in situ rumen incubation, exhibited an increase with shading,” explained the scientists. Additionally, shaded plots exhibited higher crude and soluble protein content, insoluble acid detergent protein, and fiber fractions compared to control plots. Furthermore, biomass from shaded treatments demonstrated an improved calcium-phosphorus ratio suitable for ruminant feeding.

These findings provide valuable insights into optimizing biomass production and enhancing the nutritional quality of durum wheat within agrivoltaic systems, potentially offering significant benefits for both agricultural productivity and livestock welfare.