The Economic Impact of Fall Planting vs Spring Planting Hops

Final Report for FNC15-997

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2015: $7,397.00
Projected End Date: 02/15/2017
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Stephen Howe
Howe Farms
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Project Information

Summary:

The summer/fall of 2015 was spent establishing the trellis system in the research hop yard as well as fall planting hops.  A portion of our hop yard was set aside specifically for the research yard.  The research yard consists of 18 200-foot-long rows.  Each row consists of six 20- to 23-foot cedar poles spaced 40 feet apart.  Going along the top of each row of poles, and anchored to the ground at the end of the row, is 5/16 aircraft cable.  After testing soil we found no amendments were necessary.

In August of 2015 we planted 9 rows of hops.  We planted Tahoma, Chinook, Cashmere, and Centennial hops.  We fall planted 65 in a row with 3 foot spacing between plants.  585 total plants were fall planted.

Spring of 2016 we planted Tahoma, Chinook, and Centennial hops after the first frost.  Cashmere hops from our supplier tested positive for a virus and had to be destroyed so other plants were not infected.  These spring planted Cashmere plants were not able to be used in comparative research because they were not planted until July of 2016.

After planting each variety, we placed measuring sticks in each row to determine the soil loss of spring vs fall planted varieties.  

 

Introduction:

Indiana, and the Great Lakes region as a whole, has been a large part of the recent craft brewery boom.  This interest for local beer has opened up a market and created a large demand for local hops.  One major problem facing established hop farmers and those interested in hop farming is Return on Investment.

Reducing the time for financial returns will benefit growers, brewers, consumers, and local communities as a whole.  This research has the potential to open up a new economic avenue for current and aspiring farmers by showing hops to be a truly valuable “cash crop.”  With an increase in production, brewers and consumers will see an improved local product that has been unavailable in the past.  This research offers the rare opportunity for both an economic and a social impact for a local community.  Local breweries and local farms can create jobs and keep the money in the area. 

Establishment costs for one acre are $13,000-$15,000 and there are no substantial financial returns for the first 3 years.  Traditionally hops have been planted in the spring after the last frost.  The hops spend the majority of their first growing season setting up roots.  Production in the first year is generally 0%-10% of the projected maturity yield.  Our goal is to give farmers the information necessary to significantly increase this first year yield, thus providing a quicker Return on Investment.

 

Project Objectives:

The main objective of this project was to compare the total weight of the harvested cones per hop variety for both fall planted and spring planted hops to determine which planting method produces more product to sell during the first season.  Data was collected at different stages of development for visual comparisons.  Weekly scouting for both harmful and beneficial insects occurred throughout the growing season to determine the need for pesticides.  Dates for both fall and spring plants were recorded when the plants formed burrs and when the plants formed visible cones.  At harvest time, the total weight of the hops plants was recorded for each variety and averaged.  We then compared the average for fall versus spring planted hops in each variety.

Research

Materials and methods:

The summer/fall of 2015 was spent establishing the trellis system in the research hop yard as well as fall planting hops.  A portion of our hop yard was set aside specifically for the research yard.  The research yard consists of 18, 200 foot long rows.  Each row consists of 6, 20-23 foot cedar poles spaced 40 feet apart.  Going along the top of each row of poles, and anchored to the ground at the end of the row, is 5/16 aircraft cable.  After testing soil we found no amendments were necessary.

In August of 2015 we planted 9 rows of hops.  We planted Tahoma, Chinook, Cashmere, and Centennial hops.  We fall planted 65 in a row with 3 foot spacing between plants.  585 total plants were fall planted.

Spring of 2016 we planted Tahoma, Chinook, and Centennial hops after the first frost.  Cashmere hops were from our supplier tested positive for a virus and had to be destroyed so other plants were not infected.  These spring planted Cashmere plants were not able to be used in comparative research because they were not planted until July of 2016.

After planting each variety, we placed measuring sticks in each row to determine the soil loss of spring vs fall planted varieties.  

All components of day to day operations were the same for Fall and Spring planted hops.

Research results and discussion:

 

The main objective of this project was to compare the total weight of the harvested cones per hop variety for both fall planted and spring planted hops to determine which planting method produces more product to sell during the first season.  We planted 4 varieties to compare results and documented their progress.  However, spring planted Cashmere became virus infected before planting and new plant stock had to be ordered and planted too late for a crop.

Figure 1 Hop Stages Date Chart

Based on the total weights we concluded that fall planting does produce a larger crop than spring planting.  These results prove fall planting can positively affect the economic aspect of growing hops.  However, we hypothesized that we would see results close to hops in their 2nd year of growth.  This was not the case, as results were in the first year percentile range and variety dependent.

Figure 2 Total Weight Graph

A noticeable variance was variety yields.  Spring planted Tahoma did not produce any yield, while spring planted Centennial and Chinook did.  Yields were also highest in Chinook and lowest in Centennial.  Fall planted Centennial and Chinook produced seven times the yield over Spring planted hops of the same variety.  These results have been broken down to a per plant yield in figure 3.

Figure 3 Yield Per Plant Graph

Another goal of this project was to determine the soil loss differences between fall and spring planted rows.  We measured the loss in all rows and the results were identical.  Each row lost ¼ in of soil over the course of the growing season. 

Impact of Results/Outcomes

 

The main objective of this project was to compare the total weight of the harvested cones per hop variety for both fall planted and spring planted hops to determine which planting method produces more product to sell during the first season.  We planted 4 varieties to compare results and documented their progress.  However, spring planted Cashmere became virus infected before planting and new plant stock had to be ordered and was planted too late for a crop.

Based on the total weights, we concluded that fall planting does produce a larger crop than spring planting.  These results prove fall planting can positively affect the economic aspect of growing hops.  However, we hypothesized that we would see results close to hops in their 2nd year of growth.  This was not the case, as results were in the first year percentile range and variety dependent.

A noticeable variance was variety yields.  Spring planted Tahoma did not produce any yield, while spring planted Centennial and Chinook did.  Yields were also highest in Chinook and lowest in Centennial.  Fall planted Centennial and Chinook produced seven times the yield over Spring planted hops of the same variety.  These results have been broken down to a per plant yield in figure 3.

Another goal of this project was to determine the soil loss differences between fall and spring planted rows.  We measured the loss in all rows and the results were identical.  Each row lost ¼ in of soil over the course of the growing season. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

In 2015 I shared our information primarily through social media.  I have regularly utilized Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to allow others to see the progress of our project. 

In 2016 we continued to share our information via social media, but also through workshops and panels.  I sat on a hop growing panel at Purdue University and spoke at a 3 Purdue Field Days.  Our research will be given to Purdue, shared with other growers through the Indiana Hop Growers Association, and presented at panel discussions at Purdue workshops.

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

The information found in the data of our research can be utilized by both current and future hop growers.  The information should be used to determine the Return on Investment and business planning of future expansion as well as beginning farms.

Future Recommendations

This SARE grant has allowed us to research best planting times for economic success.  Although our results were below projections, this could have been due to variety choice, region,  and maturity.  We believe an extended data collection of different varieties in different locations would be beneficial.  We also would recommend looking at the same data comparison over another year, to see if there was a significant yield difference in year 2.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.