Hops Farming/Cultivation Practices
Today, let us talk about Growing Hops From Runners, and Hops Farming, planting practices.
Hops are the green color, cone-shaped flowers of the female hop plant. Hops are agricultural produce, the female flowers of a plant in the cannabis family. They are used as a bittering and stability agent in beer, to which they impart, in addition to bitterness, floral, fruity or citric flavors & aromas. The hop plant is a perennial, similar to rhubarb, so it grows back every year without having to replant. There are hundreds of varieties, grown exclusively for the female flowers known as hops, which are almost absolutely used for brewing beer. They’re climbers & grow vigorously pretty much no matter the climate.
This is an extremely strange plant. It’s native to much of the world, including North America, but it isn’t actually edible in any simple way. The hop plant was considered a weed before its peculiar properties were exposed, namely that it has specific antibacterial effects. Hops extract creates an unfavorable environment for most microorganisms, that is bad bacteria can’t grow. One of the only varieties of bacteria that can endure is brewer’s yeast, making it perfect for beer. And the bitter flavor of hops, normally not that desirable in food & beverage manufacturer, serves well to balance out the sweetness of the beer.
Hops are also a concentrated source of the essential oils that lend many beers their signature, intoxicating flavors & aromas. And before modern refrigeration, hops served as the main beer preservative. Hops are used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine. The hop plant is a vigorous, climbing, herbaceous perennial, generally trained to grow up strings in a field called a Hopfield, hop garden, or hop yard in the West Country and the US when grown commercially. Many different varieties of hops are grown by farmers around the world, with special types used for particular styles of beer.
The scientific name of Hop:
World production of Hops:
Hops production is concentrated in moist temperate climates, with much of the world’s production happening near the 48th parallel north. Hops prefer the same soils as potatoes & the leading potato-growing states in the United States are also major hops-producing areas. However, not all potato-growing areas can produce excellent hops naturally. Historically, hop plants were not grown in Ireland but were imported from England.
Important Hop plant production centers are the Hallertau in Germany, the Zatec in the Czech Republic, the Yakima (Washington) & Willamette (Oregon) valleys, and western Canyon County, Idaho. The principal production centers in the UK are in Kent, Herefordshire, & Worcestershire. Basically, all of the harvested hops are used in beer making.
Read: Sugar Beet Cultivation.
Varieties of Hops:
There are more varieties of Hops are available, for example, Bravo, Calypso, Lemon drop, Zeus, Aramis, Ariana, Bitter gold, Callista, Chinook, Opal, Polaris and etc.
Site selection for Hops Farming:
The ideal hop yard must have direct sunlight, easy access to water, & plenty of room for vertical growth. Space along fences, garages and property lines hold potential as hop yards. Hop vines need a strong support system to grow successfully; tall poles & strong twine are commonly used to support the growing vines. Growers must avoid sites with electrical wires nearby because of potential problems caused by sprawling vines.
Climate requirement for Hops Farming:
Hop plants are adapted to a wide range of climatic conditions, ample moisture early followed by warm, dry weather is ideal. In areas where rainfall is lacking 7 the water table is more than 5 ft deep, irrigation may be required.
Require tools and machinery for Hops Farming:
- Skid Steer with an auger (14” and 18”)
- Telehandler (forks and man basket)
- Cable pullers
- T-post (metal fence posts)
- Field Marker
- Cable Spooler
- Water Wagon
- Large Flat Bed Trailer
- Disc and etc
Planting and training Hops:
Hops are perennial & produce bines annually. There are separate male & female plants, but only the female plants produce the flowers called hop cones. These cones contain lupulin, the aromatic oils & resins that give beer its characteristic flavors.
Hop rhizomes can be purchased online or at brewing supply stores and they are generally available from March to May. The rhizomes must be planted as soon as the soil is workable, but it’s best to plant after the final frost. Hops must be planted in rows of hills about 8 feet apart with two rhizomes per hill and hills set about 2 to 3 feet apart. “Hops are difficult to develop on a small scale,” Paino advises. “They need a lot of attention, especially in late June & early July.”
That period of early summer he’s referring to is when you’ll need to train the hop plants. Once the shoots achieve 1 to 2 feet, they are ready to train. Taught, strong baling twine must be used to create your trellis. Stretch the twine 10 – 15 feet over the row. Then run a piece of twine down to each plant & secure with a stake in the ground at the base of the plant. Next, you’ll need to choose the strongest bines to string up the trellis. They started by selecting about 6 bines, but they have found that selecting only two produces more vegetative growth & a better balance of hops to leave. He adds that the ideal portion is about 80 percent hop cones to 20 percent leaves.
Once you’ve preferred trellising candidates, wrap them clockwise around the twine. Prune remaining bines to prevent tangling & continue to prune throughout the growing season. The lower 2 to 3 feet of foliage can be removed once bines climb the trellis & produce side branches to allow more airflow, reducing disease risks.
Read: Cat Grass Growing Process.
Hop plants need plenty of water. A drip irrigation method is ideal to reduce diseases that can result from the wet foliage. The Ruhstaller Farm & Yard grows about 7½ acres of hops that the farm uses drip irrigation at a rate of 1 gallon per hour. During April & May, they run one 12-hour cycle per week. During June, it increases to two cycles a week, and in July & August, three cycles per week. In regards to smaller scale construction, according to Rutgers University Cooperative Extension, established plants need about 1½ inches of water per week & a soil pH between 6 and 7.
Propagation of Hops:
Hop plants are propagated from runners that arise from the crown below the soil surface. The runners are cut into pieces 6 – 8 inches long, each bearing at least 2 sets of buds. Cuttings should be planted instantly or if not, stored in a cool, moist, well-ventilated place. Cuttings that are poorly developed, misshapen, damaged should not be planted. Many hop growers create a nursery block where cuttings are planted and grown for one season. One year sets are transplanted from the nursery in the spring.
Irrigation in Hops Farming:
Hop plants need consistent moisture throughout the growing season. Be careful not to over-saturate the soil, or nutrients can leach into groundwater. You can let the soil dry out slightly between watering. Hop plants develop very rapidly during the heat of summer, so it is important to deliver consistently, even moisture to prevent drought stress. A hop plant may need several gallons of water per day during summer. Ideally, water plants either with a drip system, by hand at the base of the plant, or within sandy soils. This will minimize wet foliage, which can lead to disease problems.
Hop vines are typically grown until around mid-July, but your harvest time will vary by location & could occur in August or September. You’ll most likely be able to harvest multiple times, as cones at the top of the plant often mature faster than the ones down under that get less sunlight. A cone is harvestable when it feels dry & light much drier than a damp green cone. You’ll also smell the ripe cones, and they must feel slightly sticky.
Once the hop cones are harvested, it is important to dry & store them properly so they don’t mold or go rancid. You can use a food dehydrator or oven, but make sure to dry them at a low temperature below 135°F.
The hop harvest begins at the end of August & runs through September. Hopsteiner operates particular combines that mechanically remove the hop cones from the trellis & place them in trucks that instantly deliver to the cleaning facility. There, hop cones separate from any remaining leaves & stem from the use of a sophisticated array of belts, fans, and screens. Hops are next sent to kilns for drying. Once the hops are dried to the good moisture content, they cool for up to 24 hours before being baled in breathable material. As part of Hopsteiner’s extensive quality control system, bales are inspected & probe-tested for moisture, temperature and stem and leaf content. Prior to refrigerated storage, the bales are marked with a single code that allows for complete traceability all the way back to the hop yard. Hopsteiner invites customers to attend hop selection during & after harvest to choose their contracted hop lots.
Drying and storing Hops:
Harvested hop cones require to be dried before storing to prevent spoilage. Air-drying is preferable & can be done by spreading the cones in a single layer on a window screen. Keep the hop cones out of direct sunlight & turn every day until dry. Alternatively, a food dehydrator or oven can be used, but temperatures must be kept below 140°F. You will recognize the hop is dry when the inner stem becomes brittle. The lupulin will also be visible as a yellow powder & will easily separate from the cone.
Moisture, air & heat can rob your hops of quality & freshness, so it’s important to protect against each of these factors when storing. A perfect place for storage is in the refrigerator or freezer in a sealable plastic bag with all air removed, preferably using a vacuum sealer. Paino suggests that hops stored in this way could last up to 2 years. Larger crops with mechanical harvesting method will require a kiln for drying the hops. The dried hops are then baled & can be stored for a year or more.
Diseases and their control in Hops Farming:
Disease problems can be minimized by the selection of resistant varieties & removal of diseased plant tissues. Removing the lower leaves on the bines at training time will help prevent the spread of disease & insect pests. Pruning must be performed with clean tools. Caution is advised to avoid damaging crowns during pruning & cultivation.
Downy mildew is most severe in areas of heavy spring rainfall when the grouping of moisture & temperature that is 60 to 70°F is favorable for infection and disease development. The varieties that show the greatest resistance to downy mildew are Willamette, Cascade, Nugget & Fuggle. The first symptoms of the disease appear in early spring when a part or all of the new shoots arising from a hill can be infected. Badly infected shoots are unable to climb and are stunted, brittle & lighter in color than healthy shoots. These “spikes” are infected internally by the fungus & may carry millions of spores. The spores can be carried by wind or water to other shoots & can infect the tips of healthy shoots. Flowers often become infected when blooming occurs through wet weather. Young cones that are infected stop growing & turn brown. When older cones are attacked, part or all of the petals turn brown & cones fail to develop properly.
The hop downy mildew, fungus survives the winter as winter spores in infected roots. The Cluster varieties are particularly susceptible to root & crown infection. Control of downy mildew needs a combination of sanitation practices & strategically timed applications of fungicides, in addition to the utilize of resistant cultivars. Roots for planting must be clean and disease-free. Spiked shoots must be removed promptly from the field and burned. Individual plants with infected crowns should be dug & removed from the field. Late pruning, end of April shortens the time that new development is exposed to favorable mildew conditions in the spring. It is advisable to treat yards that have spikes or those located near yards with spikes with fungicides before warm, wet weather to avoid new infections.
Sooty mold is caused by the fungi Cladosporium & Fumago spp., which grow on the honeydew excreted by aphids. Moldy cones are considered inferior in quality & may be difficult to sell. Sooty mold is able to control by controlling the aphid.
Root rots are characterized by a brown or black discoloration & rot of the infected parts. To prevent this problem, growers must select only healthy cuttings for propagation. Well-drained sites generally have fewer problems.
Verticillium wilt can be avoided by starting with planting stock that is certified free of Verticillium. New hop yards should not be planted on sites known to be infested with Verticillium from the previous cropping in potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries. Only Galena, Eroica & the Cluster varieties show any degree of resistance to Verticillium Wilt.
Viral disease symptoms include leaf & tip distortion, tip die-back, yellow spotting of the leaves, stunted growth, failure to climb and flower blasting. To avoid problems with viral diseases, use virus-free planting supply. Distinctly abnormal plants should be removed promptly, & cuttings should not be taken from such plants.
Insects and other predators and their control in Hops Farming:
Hop plants are subject to attack by a large number of insects & other pests. Hop aphids and spider mites are the most important of these pests, but wire-worms, root weevils, western spotted cucumber beetles, corn earworms, and several species of cutworm may require control measures in some years. Though hop growers in northern Wisconsin have produced good yields using little or no pesticides, applications of chemicals can occasionally be necessary.
Hop aphid infestations increase more rapidly during cool weather. Heavy populations of 8 to 10 aphids will weaken plants and reduce yields, & the application of an insecticide is recommended. Aphids must be controlled before or during the flowering stage to keep them from entering the young cones. Aphid predators, including lady beetles, green lacewings, & syrphid or hover fly larvae, can be used to help control aphids.
Spider mites feed by puncturing the lower leaf surfaces & withdrawing sap. Each puncture produces a small, light-colored spot. Eventually, the leaves become bronzed, shrivel & die. Heavy mite infestation results in weak plants & reduced yield. Unlike aphids, spider mites are likely to become a problem during periods of warm, dry weather. Mite predators useful in hop yards include the western predator mite & the small black lady beetle. During June, a miticide request is recommended if mite populations reach an average of 10/leaf. Good coverage, particularly on the undersides of the foliage, is required to obtain good control.
Cutworms overwinter as larvae in the soil. The adult moths emerge in late spring & lay eggs. The larvae that appear from the eggs feed on plant stems at night. Cutworms can normally be found just beneath the soil surface during the day.
Omnivorous leaf tier larvae feed on the rising tips of vines. They destroy the tips, thus stimulating the increase of lateral shoots. This injury has minimal produce on yield, but when it occurs new shoots have to be trained.
Yield potential and performance results:
The yield & performance of hop in the Upper Midwest is competitive with that of the Northwest. In addition to the total yield in cones, it is important to believe the yield of alpha acids. The cultivars Galena, Eroica & Nugget produce the highest yield of alpha acid (300 lb/acre). Other quality characteristics brewers may value are color, oil content & aroma.
Hops Liquid Extract – Rs 1,800/Kilogram.
Hops Flower Extracts – Rs 2,200/Kilogram.
Nutritional value of Hops:
As an herbal medicine, hops contain various essential oils, vitamins & minerals, which make it suitable for different uses. Some of the essential oils resulting from the hops are:
These oils have antiseptic & anti-inflammatory characteristics, which make them perfect for relaxing the body. Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin C have antioxidant properties, which makes the immune system more active & less prone to diseases. Some chemicals naturally found in the body and in the herb, which help in balancing the functions of the body.
In addition to water, cellulose, & various proteins, the chemical composition of hops consists of compounds important for the imparting character to the beer.
Probably the main chemical compound within hops is the alpha acids or humulones. During wort boiling, the humulones are thermally isomerized into iso-alpha acids, which are responsible for the bitter taste of beer.
The Hops plant contains beta acids or lupulones. These are attractive for their aroma contributions to beer.
The main components of hops essential oils are terpene hydrocarbons consisting of myrcene, humulene & caryophyllene. Myrcene is responsible for the pungent smell of fresh hop plants. Humulene & its oxidative reaction products may give beer its prominent hop aroma. Together, myrcene, humulene, & caryophyllene represent 80 to 90% of the total hops essential oil.
The chemical arrangement of 8-prenylnaringenin.
Xanthohumol is the primary flavonoid in hops. The other well-studied prenylflavonoids are 8-prenylnaringenin & isoxanthohumol. Xanthohumol is under necessary research for its potential properties, while 8-prenylnaringenin is a potent phytoestrogen.
Benefits of Hop:
Keeps skin younger:
Hop is a good source of antioxidants, which means that it helps the body fight against free radicals, giving the skin a radiant & youthful glow.
Treats skin inflammation:
It may be the main ingredient in beer but used in various cosmetic products for skin treatments. The oils & minerals in the plant provide an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and are used to decrease the surface blood vessels.
Hops are used to treat insomnia. As they are connected to the “cannabis” family, they are used as a drug for relaxing muscles & treating people suffering from anxiety.
Relaxes and soothes muscles:
Hops help in relaxing the aching muscles & body pain. Easily available, it is used in several pain killers.
Treats different ulcers:
Another benefit of this wonder weed is that it is used in the treatment of various types of ulcers. It has been confirmed that the dosage of hops mixed with other essential herbs helps in the treatment of various ulcer-causing bacteria.
Improves Digestive System:
Hops improving the digestive system hops fasten the metabolism of the body. People suffering from different digestive disorders can go for this herbal medicine.