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Start a Small Hops Farm

July 26, 2014 by Rick Morris

This is a very nice video that presents hops growing on a business production level.  It's a 1 hour, 21 minute slide show that explores everything from the history of hops to growing hops to harvesting hops.  Produced by Michigan State University.  Print the Small-Scale Organic Hops Production pdf.

SirrineMSU ExtensionLeelanau County, MIBrian TennisMichigan Hop AllianceE-Organic WebinarNovember 15, 2011Small-Scale Organic Hops ProductionOutline
•Natural History and Taxonomy
•Characteristics and Growth Habits
•Production and Growing Requirements
•Pests and Diseases
•Trellising and Processing
•Economics, Market Trends, Brewer Needs
•Research Trials
Hops Gain a Foothold in The U.S.
•Dutch probably 1st to bring hops to the New World in early 1600’s
•Native hops could be found in woods, but Dutch law required hops to be imported
•New England colonists 1st to establish cultivated hops crops as early as 1628
•Massachusetts promoted “healthy” malted beverages
•Used imported, locally grown and wild hops
Source: Tinged With Gold, Tomlan, 19921839 1859 Hops Gain a U.S. FootholdSource: Tinged With Gold, Tomlan, 1992Each dot represents 100,000 bales (1 bale = 200 lbs. dried hops)
1879 1899
Hops Gain a U.S. FootholdSource: Tinged With Gold, Tomlan, 1992
By 1920’s majority of production had moved west
2Natural History and Taxonomy
•Humulus is the genus of herbaceous climbing plants that most likely originated in China, but is indigenous to temperate areas of the northern hemisphere including Asia, Europe, and N. America.
•Humulus is one of two genera in the Cannabinaceae family, the other being Cannabis.
•Though there are three distinct species H. lupulus, H. japonicus, and H. yunnanensis all commercial hops are of the Humulus lupulus (common hop) species. What are Hops?
•Hops are dieoecious, perennial plants that produce annual bines from an overwintering rhizome
•Only the female flower “strobile” or “cone” is desirable for use in beer production
•Cones (0.5‐4 in.) light green, papery, contain Lupilin glands, home to alpha and beta acids, and essential oilsLupulin
•Essential oils: contribute to aroma
•Soft resins: beta acids, and the all important alpha acids.Site and Soil Requirements
•Hops require long day lengths
•Specific chilling requirements (winter temperatures below 40 :F for 1‐2 months) that are rarely satisfied below 35 degrees latitude.
•Climate: minimum of 120 frost free days
•Full day sun (8+ hours)
•Good air circulation and drainage to avoid mildew problems
•Sandy loam or well-drained loamy soil
•Poorly drained, strongly alkaline or saline soils should be avoided
•Very shallow bedrock and very shallow water tables to be avoidedPlanting, Thinning, Training, Stripping
•Planted in spring
•Spacing and plants per acre
•Training-Two bines trained up each of the two coconut fiber support strings in a clockwise direction
•Stripping at 7-8 ft, the lowest 2-3 feet of leaves and lateral branches are generally removed (stripping)
•Stripping can be accomplished manually, chemically, or with livestock
Hop Growing Requirements: Fertility
• Soil Test Before planting
• Tissues Tests and Soil tests
• Recommended fertilization rates:
– Nitrogen (N) = 120-140 lbs/acre
• Mid-April with urea (40-0-0) every 2-3 weeks then later come in
with triple 16
• End in late-June
• No more than 25 lbs/acre at one time
– Phosphorous (P) = 60-100 lbs/acre
– Potassium (K) = 100 lbs/acre (potash)
Organic Hop Growing Requirements:
• Manure and compost
• Leguminous cover crops
• Bone meal, feathermeal, bloodmeal, kelp, etc.
Hop Growing Requirements: Irrigation
• RAM Pressure compensating with emitters
(.42 g/hour) every 2 ft.
• May-September
Pests and Diseases
• Hop aphid (Phorodon humuli)
• Spider Mites (Tetranychus urticae)
• Apple Mosaic Virus
• Hop Stunt Viroid
• Downy mildew
(Pseudoperonospora humuli)
• Powdery mildew
(Podosphaera macularis)
Spider Mites
• Spider mites damage hop plants by feeding on leaves and cones, sucking plant juices from the
cells=bronzing of leaves and reduces plant vigor
• Monitor weekly beginning in mid to late May.
• Provide plants with adequate but not excessive nitrogen fertility and water.
• Reduce dust, especially in hot dry weather.
• Treat to prevent cone infestations using foliar-applied miticides.
• Avoid the use of pyrethroid, organophosphate, carbamate, and Neonicotinoid insecticides,
and late-season sulfur applications.
• Can treat when average of one to two female spider mites per leaf in June and early July, or
five to 10 mites per leaf after mid-July. But hop plants can tolerate much higher twospotted
spider mite populations without suffering economic loss if cones are not infested.
• Spider mite populations can build rapidly, especially in hot, dry conditions, therefore
monitoring is important.
Other options
• Prune extra bines in early May, stripping
• If the hops are in the burr stage, a lime sulphur spray may be applied to the whole plant.
• Predaceous insects-Anthocorid Bugs/Predatory mites
Spider mite webbing is associated
with severe infestations. (D. G. James)
Twospotted spider mites. (D. G. James)
4Aphid control
Aphids (Phorodonhumuli) –but other aphids as well.
•Biological control-Ladybird beetles, Lacewing, Aphid Midge (AphidoletesAphidimyza)
•Begin monitoring in May when daytime temperaturesexceed 58 °F.
•Avoid excessive application of nitrogen.
•Intervene early to prevent aphid establishment in hop cones.
•Rotate chemical classes to avoid resistance.
•Use selective pesticides that preserve natural enemies.
•Monitoring should begin when daytime minimum temperatures exceed 58 to 60°F. A comprehensive economic threshold does not exist for hop aphid. Most growers apply a pesticide when an average five to 10 aphids per leaf are observed before flowering. Generally, aphids are not tolerated after flowering; control with pesticides is difficult once aphids infest cones.
Source: aphids on leaf. (D. G. James)Powdery Mildew
•Powdery mildew is caused by the fungus Podosphaeramacularis
•Extremely readily spread at all stages.
•Good sanitation in the hopyardis key.
•Bines with signs of the infection should be cut and burned away from the hopyardbefore the hops shatter.
•Stripping off the lower leaves of the bines also helps get rid of any early spores
•Training and pruning the vines so that adequate sunshine and air are admitted to the entire plant will help control the outbreak of Powdery Mildew.
•Avoid heavy doses of nitrogen fertilizer or uncompostedmanure-more succulent tissue is more susceptible
•Sulphur-based fungicides control this disease, and can be applied as soon as the first spots of mold are seen on the leaves.
•Works best as a protectant though
•Be careful that liquid sulphurformulations do not include wetting agents prohibited by organic regulations. Powdery mildew. (D. H. Gent)Cone with severe browning caused by late seasoninfection by the powdery mildew fungus.. (D. H. Gent) Mildew
•The single most devastating disease in Western hopyards.
•Hop Downy Mildew (Pseudoperonosporahumuli) is specific to hops.
•Typically first noticed as the young bines grow out in spring Infection of shoots after training. Notice the yellowing, stunting, and downcurlingof the leaves. (D. H. Gent)Angular leaf lesions on hop leaves. The black discoloration is due to sporulation by the pathogen. (D. H. Gent)Dark brown discoloration of bracts and bracteoles on cones severely affected by downy mildew. (B. Engelhard)Basal spikes: Hop shoots systemically infected with the downy mildew pathogen. (D. H. Gent)
Downy mildew
Cultural control
•Prune crown before growth starts in the spring or burn back green tissue before training. Complete removal of green tissue or pruning of entire hill is necessary for most effective disease management.
•Remove diseased hills and mark for replanting.
•Train bines early to prevent them from coming in contact with soil.
•Begin suckering as soon as vines are strung. Continue at regular intervals until warm, dry weather prevails (June to July).
•Strip leaves from bines at a height of 4’ soon after training to reduce the spread of downy mildew up the canopy.
•Avoid overhead irrigation, especially during and after burr development.
•Avoid over fertilizing with N
•Choose varieties that are resistant
Chemical Control
•Copper based fungicides
•Make sure whatever you use is registered in your state
Based on PNW data
•MS=moderately susc.
•MR=moderately resist.
•U=unknownNew Zealand Example
•Organic producers use dried blood and bone and meal and bone fertilizers
•They also use liquid organic fertilizers
•Rock phosphate and lime (to lower acidity)
•Natural dolomite is used for Mg
•TSSM-controlled with predator mites
•Grass, oats, and clover in alleys-mow and blow into rows (oats mulched, then grass mowed every 5 days) clover feeds sheep and sheep also eat hop suckers.
Conventional High TrellisImportant to build a Solid Trellis!!Short Trellis
•3’ x 8’, 9’, or 12’
•Labor Reduction
•Lower Establishment Cost
•Lower yields
•Ill-adapted varieties
•2009-29,588 acres in WA State (79% of US Production)
“Washington hop acreage is expected to decline 30% in the next few years, a consequence of a worldwide oversupply. As a result, the economic climate for Washington hop producers is currently in chaos.”
Source: USAhops.org2010 National Summary
•Washington growers produced 80% of the U.S. hop crop.
•US Production 65 mill lbs. down 31% from 2009
•Acreage decreased 42% in ID, 24% in OR, and 18% in WA
•Zeus and Columbus/Tomahawk were the leading varieties in Washington, accounting for 38%
•In Oregon, Nugget and Willamette accounted for 62% of the State’s hop production. NOSB RULING
•On October 28, 2010, the National Organic Standards Board unanimously voted in favor of the removal of hops from section 205.606 of the National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances, effective January 1, 2013
•Organic beer will have to be made with organic hops starting in 2013
11/15/20119Market Potentialbeervanabuzz.blogspot.comBrewer Variety Needs
Top five varieties used by brewers
3.Perle/Saaz/Simcoe –30%
4.Columbus/N. Brewer/Tettnanger –25%
5.EK Golding/Willamette –20%
50 % noted Cascade as #1 varietyBrewers wish they had more…
2.Summit/Saaz –15%
3.Note: several brewers said “all varieties”
Brewer Variety NeedsWill brewers pay a premium?0%
40%50%60%70%80%90%100%LocalOrganicLocal & OrganicHop Category
Percent Premium by Hop Category50-75
•Hops are generally purchased as extracts, whole flower, or pelletized with quality defined by:
•α-acid, Β-acid (as % dry weight)
•Cohumulonecontent (as % α-acid)
•Total Oil (as % dry weight)
•Hop Storage Index
•Pelletized: All but one!!
•α-acid: 80%, cohumulone: 14%
•Storage or packaging: 23%
Quality Needs
Research Trials
• Investigating Hop Varieties for Michigan Production –
(Project GREEEN Research Station Variety Trial)
• Plant Breeding and Agronomic Research for Organic Hop
Production Systems- Organic Research and Extension
Initiative Grant with WSU, MSU,UVM (On-Farm)
• Meeting the Growing Demand for Organic Hops: Low-
Trellis Organic Hop Production in the Great Lakes Region -
Michigan Hop Alliance on-farm trial
Conventional Hop Variety Trial
NW and SW Station Hop Variety Trial
• Brewers Gold
• Cascade
• Centennial
• Crystal
• EK Golding
• Glacier
• Perle
• Santiam
• Teamaker
• Tettnanger
• Willamette
• 8 Cover Crop
• 20 hop varieties
2010 NCR SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant
1. Determine the growth habits,
yields, quality, and market
potential of the hop cultivar
“Summit” on a low-trellis system
under Great Lakes growing
2. Assess the effects of understory
nitrogen fixing cover crops on soil
quality, soil nitrogen levels, hop
leaf nitrogen, and weed control.
3. Conduct a cost/benefit analysis
of low-trellis vs. hi-trellis organic
hop production systems.
• Quality is crucial
• Hi initial and annual costs
with questionable returns
• Don’t underestimate the
amount of labor required
• Need for picking and
processing equipment if
you plant >1/2 acre
• Will most likely need a
price premium to do
• Wolf (picker) $55,000-$100,000
• Hammermill & Pelletizer $8000-15,000
• Vacuum Sealer $2000-2500
• Dryer $12,000 +
• Energy (wet hop to pellet) $1.50 / lb
• Cold Storage $ ?????
• Annual labor for 14 acres $600/day
Crew of six (2 months working 10 hour + days)
Resources Soon to be live!
• Sustainable Hop Production in the Great Lakes Region. Michigan State University Extension Bulletin E-3083. January 2010.
• A Hops Nutrient Management Guide. Oregon State University. FG 79.
• Cost of Establishing and Producing Hops Under Drip Irrigation in the Yakima Valley. Washington State University Extension. EB1134.
• Crop Profile for Hops in Oregon.
• Growing hops in the backyard. FS 992. Rutgers Cooperative Extension. Bamka, W., and E. Dager. 2002.
• Homegrown Hops. 2nd edition, Reveille Farm, Junction City, OR. Beach. D. 2000.
• Hop. Alternative Field Crops Manual. Carter, P.R., E.A. Oelke, A.R. Kaminski, C.V. Hanson, S.M. Combs, J.D. Doll, G.L. Worf, and E.S.
Oplinger. 1990. Available at:
• Hop Production. Brooks, S.N., C.E. Horner, and S.E. Likens. 1961. USDA-ARS Info Bulletin No. 240. Washington, D.C.
• Hops. Neve., R.A. 1991.
• Hops: Botany, Cultivation and Utilization. Burgess, A.H. 1964. World Crop Books. New York: Interscience Publication.
• Hops: Organic Production. George Kuepper.
• Oregon Crop profile,
• Small scale and organic hops production. Kneen, Left Fields, British Columbia. Kneen,
• Rebecca. 2003.
• The Hop Atlas: The History and Geography of the Cultivated Plant. Barth, H.J., C. Klinke, and C. Schmidt. 1994.
• Tinged with Gold: Hop Culture in the United States. Tomlan, M. 2002.
• USDA Named Hop Variety Descriptions.
• Washington Crop profile,
Pests and Diseases
• Compendium of Hop Diseases and Pests. Edited by Walter Mahaffee, Sarah Pethybridge and David Gent. APS Press. 2009. ISBN 978-0-
89054-376-4 Available from
• Field Guide for Integrated Pest Management in Hops. David Gent, James Barbour, Amy Dreves, David James, Robert Parker, Douglas
Walsh. A Cooperative Publication Produced by Oregon State University, University of Idaho, USDA and Washington State University.
• Oregon State University Plant Disease Control Hops.
Plant suppliers
• Great Lakes Hops (Dutch Touch Growers, Inc; 616-875-7416)
• Sandy Ridge Farms, (Jon VandenHuevel; 616-218-2363,
• Summit Plant Laboratories, Inc. (Ali Hamm; 800-654-1017;;
Rhizome Sales
• Adventures in Home Brewing.
• Ebrew.
• Fresh Hops.
• HopTech.
• Hop Union.
• Michigan Hop Alliance.
• Midwest Supplies.
• Thyme Garden.
Other Resources (organizations, farms, local processing)
• American Organic Hop Grower Association.
• American Hop Museum (Some information on varieties).
• Empire Orchards-Hops and Apple Farm-
• Gorst Valley Hops,
• Hop Growers of America, a non-profit.
• Hop Research Council.
• Hop Union.
• Michigan Beer Guide.
• Michigan Brewers Guild.
• Michigan Hop Alliance.
• Michigan State University Extension. Dr. Robert Sirrine. Statewide hops specialist.
• Old Mission Hop Exchange.
• University of Vermont Hops Project,


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