The objective of this study was to determine the effects of an electromagnetic field from a high voltage transmission line on the yield of agricultural crops cultivated underneath and near the transmission line. For 5 years, experiments with winter wheat and corn were carried out near the 380 kV transmission line Dürnrohr (Austria)-Slavetice (Czech Republic). Different field strengths were tested by planting the crops at different distances from the transmission line. The plants were grown in experimental plots (1.77 m2), aligned to equal electric field strengths, and were cultivated according to standard agricultural practice. The soil for all plots was homogenized layer-specifically to a depth of 0.5 m to guarantee uniform soil conditions in the plant root environment. The soil was sampled annually for determinations of carbon content and the behavior of microbial biomass. During development of the vegetation, samples were collected at regular intervals for growth rate analyses. At physiological maturity, the plots (n = 8) were harvested for grain and straw yield determinations. The average electric and magnetic field strengths at four distances from the transmission line (nominal distances: 40, 14, 8, and 2 m) were between 0.2 and 4.0 kV/m and between 0.4 and 4.5 micro T, respectively. No effect of the field exposures on soil microbial biomass could be detected. The wheat grain yields were 7% higher (average of 5 years) in the plots with the lowest field exposure than in the plots nearer to the transmission line (P <.10). The responses of the plants were more pronounced in years with drought episodes during grain filling than in humid years. No significant yield differences were found for corn yields. The extent of the yield variations attributed to the distance from the transmission line was small compared to the observed annual variations in climatic or soil specific site characteristics.
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