This project was intended to collect information on hops production in Maryland that will help potential growers evaluate if this is a viable option as an alternative enterprise for their farm. The focus was on variety evaluation, integrated pest management (IPM) practices, pinpointing correct harvest, evaluating yield potential, post-harvest processing and quality determination.
1.) Collect information on insect, disease, fertility and other management parameters relevant to Maryland producers and develop best management practices for production. Determining this information will help University of Maryland Extension (UME) develop pest and fertility recommendations for farmers to maximize and optimize production.
2.) Determine harvest dates for all 24 varieties at WMREC. Hops quality for brewing can decrease significantly if a timely harvest is not achieved, which is detrimental to both brewer and the farmer. Determining proper harvest dates and harvest parameters for each variety will enable growers to harvest their hops at the correct time specific to the varieties they grow. Harvest recommendations for Maryland will likely vary significantly from recommendations in other areas of the country.
3.) Collect chemical profile data on the 24 hop varieties at WMREC in addition to 10 samples from local growers. Data from multiple locations will allow us to investigate if there are any differences in chemical profile based on spatial variation across the state. Determining the chemical profile of Maryland-grown hops will enable us to compare them to hops grown elsewhere and determine if Maryland hops have more desirable characteristics, which would give Maryland brewers and growers a marketing advantage.
Prior to prohibition, hops were grown on a commercial scale in Maryland but once the industry was forced to leave, production did not return until recently. Because of an absence of the industry for nearly 100 years, there is a lack of research-based information developed out of Maryland that growers and brewers can refer to for recommendations. As a result, producers have been adapting information on varieties, pest management, training and harvest from other states like New York, Michigan Wisconsin, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Information from these institutions does not necessarily apply to Maryland’s unique climate and pest populations.
Oregon State, Washington State, University of Idaho, and USDA ARS have published a regional, comprehensive field guide for integrated pest management in hops1. Cornell has an Integrated Hops Production Guide3, which is the closest comprehensive production guide to Maryland. Still, research needs to be done here in Maryland to generate recommendations for Maryland growers, as these guides are only somewhat applicable to our growing conditions.
Maryland has a unique climate, making it extremely difficult to extrapolate research from other regions to Maryland. The goal of hops producers is to recoup the high costs of planting, training and supporting bines by having a marketable crop in the second year. Co-PI Butler has learned in previous work with dwarfing apples on new trellis systems how important it is to do research locally so producers can have the best possible information when making decisions regarding investment and management on their farm. Research at Cornell University and the other afore institutions has shown there is potential for eastern hops production at an economically feasible level. Local Growers have been adopting that technology to our area with a longer growing season and increased disease, insect and mite pressure, such as Maryland, poses a host of problems.
Gardiner et al. investigated hops production to enhance economic opportunities for farmers and brewers in Ohio5. They were able to screen varieties for their adaption to Southern Ohio’s climate. Similar screenings have been conducted to develop the Cornell Production Guide. These publications indicate that hops production may be viable in the eastern US, and adding data generated from the Maryland Hops Project will help expand on variety, yield and harvest information on hops grown in the East. Locally, a feasibility study conducted in 2016 of hops grown in Central Maryland indicated that potential growers are having difficulty entering the industry due to the high cost of entry and lack of local research6. They identified the need for variety information and production recommendations specific to Maryland as the top priority for enabling the industry to grow in Maryland. Data generated from this project, in conjunction with data from the Maryland Hops Project from the previous two years, will help bridge the knowledge gap with aim to make hops production feasible and profitable in the future. University of Maryland has collected data over the last two years from the hops varieties grown in the Maryland Hops Project. We have uncovered unique production challenges specific to Maryland-grown hops, but at the same time discovered varieties with high yield potential. Continuing to expand on this research will allow us to generate variety, fertility, pest management and chemical profile information and recommendations for Maryland-grown hops and support Maryland’s rapidly growing brewing industry.
In an effort to support the new and rapidly growing brewing industry in Maryland, 24 varieties of hops have been established at the University of Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station in Keedysville, Maryland. Although not the first hops planting on a research farm, this planting is about ½ acre and contains 24 varieties replicated three times and is being managed intensively with regard to fertility, irrigation, as well as insect, disease and weed management using IPM principles. Current varieties in the trial;
Planted May 2016: Alpharoma, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Crystal, Mt. Hood, Mt. Ranier, Nugget, Sorachi Ace, Southern Cross, Tahoma, and Ultra.
Planted in 2017: Canadian Red Vine, Galena, Glacier, Amallia, Neo 1, New Port, Multi Head, Southern Brewer, Teamaker VF, Willamette, Vojvodina, and Zeus.
Multi Head and Neo 1 have been removed and will be replaced for the 2019 season by two plants that have been growing in the Central Maryland for over 100 years.
The following information was generated from what we are learning from the planting in Keedysville, Maryland in 2018. We hope to update this information as we continue to learn about the ins and outs of hop production in Maryland. This outlines our progress in learning about hop production and is intended to be less a recipe for production but more a menu for growers to select what works in your own operation and for ideas for solutions to challenges that limit production in our hot, humid, pest rich environment.
The Current Trial
- Spaced 3.5’ x 14’ on ¼ Acre. Laminated posts with a cable at 18’. Posts are 4’ in the ground.
- Soil was prepared the previous fall, limed, and phosphorus and potassium added to optimum levels.
- Plantings received the equivalent of 180 lbs. of nitrogen yearly from three applications in 2016 and 2017 with 120 pounds in 2018.
- Tall fescue planted between rows in spring 2016. Weekly IPM scouting with control measures taken as needed.
- Crowning was done about three weeks later in 2018 than 2017 in an attempt to increase yields.
Results in 2018 is a difficult area to address because the weather was detrimental to our two primary cooperators and did not have time to follow through with submitting samples for testing as they had agreed to do with their portion of the grant money. The bright spot of this was however, with our aggressive management of the University of Maryland hop yard, we produced good yields and high quality hops. This has influenced growers to look more closely at our research as they strive to improve their yield and quality. Thus, with our significantly higher yields and good quality of hops pellets we are beginning to be seen as a true asset and resource to the brewing community.
Major pest challenges in 2018 included: potato leafhoppers, spidermites, Japanese beetles, downy mildew, bindweed and horsenettle.
Flying Dog has conducted industry standard blind evaluations (See below) of the aroma of all varieties in 2017 and 2018. Steeping each variety in a base light lager, ranking a variety of smell categories. This will help growers and brewers identify desirable varieties beyond simple yield data.
This also helps ensure our post harvest handling is up to industry standards, and is producing a top quality product.
Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary
We have been invited to speak at two Mother Earth News sessions, The Maryland Brewer Summit, four Brewery Association of Maryland regional meetings, Carroll County Agribusness club, The Central Maryland Vegetable Conference, the Southeast Hops Conference, and to present a poster at the American Hops Conference in Monterey, CA.
We held custom field days for breweries to see the hop yard and evaluate the hops. The hops yard is open to the public to visit at any time.
We have articles in the Maryland Fruit and Vegetable Headline News and the Maryland Horticulture Technology newsletter describing our progress and detailing what we’ve learned about hops production in Maryland up to this point.
Data from the 2018 trials are to be included in the latest edition of the Maryland Hops Production Guide, which is a collaborative publication through University of Maryland Extension and Flying Dog Brewery. The 2017 version was distributed widely (including 100 copies distributed at the American Hops Conference in Monterey, CA.) and the 2018 version will be updated with more specific information based off of the research conducted through this grant.
Although there are relativity few hop farms in Maryland there is tremendous interest in this “trendy” enterprise. The purpose of our work is to provide factual, research-based information to both existing producers and those considering this venture. Collection of data on quality such as this grant has help us collect can help to confirm or refute the claims of terroir with complete analysis of these hops grown in Maryland versus the same hops produced in other areas of the county.
This research is providing data on which varieties perform well in Maryland and how to manage hops in Maryland, which as a result of our much more humid climate, is very different than hops production in the Pacific Northwest. Our data will be utilized by farmers to help them decide of hops are a viable farm enterprise, and if so, which varieties perform the best. So far, we have determined approximate hops yard and production costs per acre, as well as identified varieties that yield well and brewers have desire to purchase. This information is critical to farmers choosing hops as a new crop on their farm.
One grower in particular planted 3 acres of the variety Southern Cross and another two acres as part of their 2018 expansion because of the interest in that variety that has been generated by this work over the last three seasons.
We also consider steering farmers away from a potentially bad decision to also be a huge outcome/benefit of this project. Several grower consultations have resulted in farmers concluding that hops production is not in the best interest of their business.
The information we seek on hops production in Maryland has been lost to this area for nearly 100 years. The recent explosion in craft beer has rekindled the need for this information but it takes time to collect the necessary data to help individuals make informed decisions about entering into hops production. This is a long-term project and the analytical evaluation of this may hop samples is very expensive. This grant has allowed us to collect a second years data on these hops as they mature in Maryland conditions. We have always planned for this to be at least a five year project so that the data collected will be robust, as it will be collected over a variety of weather patterns over at least five years. We will work to secure further funding to allow us to collect this data as the final step up each season to allow us to bench mark over the course of the project.