Economics of Growing Hops In Indiana: Planting Rhizomes versus Fully Rooted Plants

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $7,465.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Justin Kratoska
Hoosier Hops Farm LLC

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: hops


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, mulching - vegetative
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: urban agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    Hoosier Hops Farm, established in 2013, is an urban hop yard located within the city limits of Indianapolis, Indiana. Although hops were much more commonly grown in the Midwest prior to Prohibition, they just recently started to make a resurgence on small farms (1-5 acres) within the last decade in the Great Lakes area. Because the vast majority of US hops production is in the Pacific Northwest, there is little information on growing hops in the central Midwest.  Research in Midwest conditions will prove beneficial to new farmers that are experimenting with this crop.  Traditional hopyard establishment is a significant investment with no substantial returns in the first three cropping years.  This system makes small-scale production more difficult as these growers do not have acreage to rotate in and out of full production ensuring a steady cashflow over time.  Typically, commercial hop yards plant rhizomes, which are the most economical means to establish the yard but take the longest amount of time to mature.  Rhizomes can be purchased for $1 - $2 each for non-trademarked varieties or farmers can harvest rhizomes from mature plants at a fraction of the costs.  An alternative method is planting fully rooted plants, which already have an established root system along with some foliage growth.  The price for fully rooted plants costs $3.50 - $5 each for non-trademarked varieties. Commonly accepted yield estimates exist for rhizomes (1st year: 0-10%, 2nd year: 25-50%, 3rd year: 50-75%, 4th year: 75-100%), but are not available for fully rooted plants.  Small scale producers are unsure of the potential early yield benefits of planting rooted plants versus rhizomes.  This project is important to small scale farms because the initial expense in establishing a 1-acre hop yard is significant.  Between the trellis construction, irrigation system, plants, fertilizers/herbicides/insecticides and general farm maintenance, the cost per acre is estimated at $13,000 per acre.  Even a modest increase in first year yields could dramatically affect the economic sustainability of small start up farms.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The main objective of this study is to compare the total weight of the harvested cones per hop variety for both the fully rooted plants and the rhizomes to determine which method produces more product to sell during the first year of growth. The performance targets are that the 320 control rhizomes and the 320 fully rooted plants will be planted in the same hopyard.  Vertical and side arm bine growth will be measured and recorded weekly. The plants will be photographed at various stages of growth for visual comparisons.  Both harmful and beneficial insects will be scouted weekly throughout the spring and summer to implement IPM methods for pesticide/insecticide usage.  Dates will be recorded when the plants form burrs, which is the early stage of hop cone formation. The date will be recorded when the cones become visible.  At harvest time, the total weight of the hops plants will be recorded for a sampling of each variety planted and averaged.  Soil samples will be taken and analyzed for nutrient evaluation before planting, during the vertical growth stage when most nitrogen is absorbed, and when cones begin to form. Plant leaf tissue samples will be taken during the vertical growth phase and during cone production to evaluate nutrient uptake into the plants.

    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.