The Economic Impact of Fall Planting vs Spring Planting Hops

Project Overview

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

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: hops


  • Crop Production: Fall Planting and Spring Planting

    Proposal summary:

    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.  The 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.

    We will be establishing a 1 acre plot to compare the effects of fall planting versus spring planting different varieties of hops.  We will be planting all virus free rooted plants.  We chose rooted plants based on the survival rate research done by others in the SARE grant program.  Numerous varieties of hops shall be planted in alternating variety rows of Fall planting and Spring planting.  We hypothesize that by giving the hops 2 months to establish a root system in the fall it will increase their first year yield the following growing season.  We will be using identical irrigation, fertilizing, and pest management practices on both fall and spring plants.  We will be using fresh picked weight of each variety to establish yield percentages.  The goal is prove that fall planting puts the first year yield into the 2nd year production range of 11%-50% of estimated mature yield.


    Project objectives from proposal:

    The main objective of this project is 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.  The plants will be photographed at different stages of development for visual comparisons.  Weekly scouting for both harmful and beneficial insects will occur throughout the growing season to determine the need for pesticides.  Dates for both fall and spring plants will be recorded when the plants form burrs and when the plants form visible cones.  At harvest time, the total weight of the hops plants will be recorded for each variety and averaged.  We will then compare the average for fall versus spring planted hops in each variety.

    This project can provide a considerable amount of information for people in all aspects of the Hops industry.  From an economic standpoint it can show a quicker return for growers, enticing others or enhancing current farms.  From a social aspect this information can make it more feasible for growers and brewers opening up local job opportunities and enhancing local economic activities.  From an environmental standpoint this could provide information in protecting the soil of a hop yard and discovering best sustainable practices for planting hops.

    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.