- Agronomic: hops
- Crop Production: cover crops
- Farm Business Management: farm-to-institution, feasibility study
- Production Systems: general crop production
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities
Hops farming is just beginning to expand in the Midwestern States. So few acres of hops are grown in this area the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service doesn’t track hops production in the North Central region. Meanwhile, the craft brewing industry is growing quickly, and farmers are beginning to recognize this potential market.
Given the beginning nature of this industry in the North Central region, there is a lack of information in how to modify the current hops farming practices found on the west coast and Canada to be successful here in the Great Plains. We in the North Central region, and here specifically in South Dakota, have lower humidity levels, higher winds, larger temperature fluctuations, and differing soil types. This makes it difficult to select the most productive trellis systems, varieties of hops to raise, and overall management of the hops field.
In addition, the harvesting and processing equipment for hops is very costly. These start up costs impede the establishment or expansion of hops farms. In order to expand hops farming in South Dakota there will need to be better access to information and cooperatives for equipment sharing. Cooperative efforts will also ensure that producers are able to grow a larger variety of types of hops to meet the needs of the craft brew industry.
I will test two soil types for growing hops, and which varieties produce best in southwestern South Dakota. To perform this experiment I will plant two half-acre plots. One plot will be in sandy soil near the Sandhills of Nebraska, the other in loamy soil that is part of the Keya Paha Table lands. Soil tests of prospective plots are currently being processed.
To keep other variables as consistent as possible, I will duplicate the structure and management of both plots as closely as possible. This includes trellis height and structure, irrigation systems, soil amendment, fertilizers, etc.
Each plot will have two rows of four different varieties of hops, for a total of eight rows per plot. Each row will have approximately 40 hops plants.
I will obtain certified organic and disease free rhizomes. I plan to plant Cascade, Centennial, Belma, and Hallertauer hops varieties, which are used by local brewers. These varieties represent both bittering and aromatic hops, each having their own use in brewing. Hops rhizome availability of specific varieties varies annually, but given the 80 varieties of hops used commercially, I am confident I will be able to obtain four varieties that represent both bittering and aromatic hops.
To measure any variance in productivity, I will measure the weight of harvested hops and send a sample from each of the 8 test units for alpha acid, beta acid, and hops storage index (HSI) analysis. I will also take pictures periodically throughout the season for visual comparison. This will be performed for two growth seasons.
Harvesting hops occurs in August, all measurements and data from both years of the experiment should be compiled by January 2018, perhaps earlier depending on timeliness of lab results.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Determine which varieties are most resilient (pest and disease resistant, productivity, etc.) to help expedite conversion to organic farming and increase profitability.
- Keep more money in the local economy by producing locally grown hops and supplying them to local brewers.
- Share project results through a new working group of hops growers and the South Dakota State University Extension Office website.