Forty farms in the Northeast will adopt at least one new pest and/or nutrient management practice on a total of 100 acres and as a result their average hop yield increases by 400 lbs per acre resulting in a increased gross revenue of $6,000 per acre.
The overall goal of the project is to develop and deliver region specific pest and nutrient management practices to increase hop yield in the northeast.
Objective 1: Develop region specific mechanical control strategies for managing downy mildew in hops.
Hypothesis 1: If the most effective crowning method is identified, then the amount of inoculum will be reduced and hop yields will increase.
Fungal diseases are the primary concern in northeast hop production. The regional climate offers ideal cool and wet weather that is optimal for hop downy mildew. Downy mildew has been present in all scouted northeastern hop yards. To prevent downy mildew and reduce the amount of disease inoculum, farmers use several methods of primary basal spike removal. The most effective methods have not been identified in the region.
Objective 2: Quantify the impact of natural enemy arthropods on pests in northeast hopyards.
Hypothesis 2: If the ability of natural enemy arthropods to combat pests is quantified, hop growers will encourage these populations, reduce losses from arthropod pests, and increase yields.
The high-intensity western hop industry has made several conventional fungicides and insecticides available for use on hops. Many farmers are concerned about the impact these products have on beneficial organisms. Also, we have observed broad-spectrum insecticide sprays to cause secondary outbreak of spider mites. These outbreaks cause more devastating yield and quality loss than the target pest. We propose to quantify biological control services in hop yards of varying agricultural intensity.
Objective 3: Screen wild hop germplasm for unique pest resistance and quality characteristics.
Hypothesis 3: If wild hop rhizomes are collected, pest resistance and/or unique quality characteristics will be identified.
Currently hop growers plant cultivars selected for regions with different climates and high-input practices. Many cultivars in demand from brewers are proprietary and unavailable to growers in our region. Additionally, the commercially available cultivars that are less susceptible to mildew are still subject to economic losses due to yield reduction from disease. It is critical that we begin an active cultivar evaluation of historic germplasm to identify potential pest and/or unique aroma varieties.
Objective 4: To develop optimum nitrogen rates for hops in the northeast.
Hypothesis 4: If growers apply optimum nitrogen rates than yield and quality will increase.
Northeastern hop yield is lower than other production regions and we have learned very little about hop fertility management. Research has shown that the effects of N fertility on hop quality characteristics are conflicting (Brooks and Keller, 1960); one recent study indicated an inverse relationship between soil N availability and hop quality (Ceh, 2014). Also, there is a lack of available hop industry knowledge. We will work to create a hop nutrient management plan and compare methods of testing for plant tissue nitrogen that farmers can easily conduct in the field themselves. Also, we will educate and provide guidance to farmers on how to conduct soil sampling and interpret test results.