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


    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.  



    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.

    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.