Optimizing a Short Trellis System for Growing Cascade Hops in Michigan

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $7,500.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Honeybee Farm
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
John Spieth
Honeybee Farm

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: hops


  • Production Systems: general crop production


    Michigan is a superior location for hops production since it encompasses the ideal (for hops) 45 degree latitude and is also one of the leading states for craft beer output.  Nevertheless, hop acreage hasn't kept pace with beer production, due in part to the high capital costs of hops production.

    A short trellis system has the potential to reduce capital and other costs and bring hops production within reach of small farmers like ourselves.   However, previous studies of short trellis systems have focused largely on less marketable dwarf varieties.  Therefore, this study examined the suitability of the most common hops cultivar in Michigan craft brewing, Cascade, and further looked at several parameters to optimize yield (notably, row spacing, plant spacing, and trimming of apical meristems) while utilizing organic methods.

    Overall, the results demonstrate that a short trellis system is a viable alternative for hops production in Michigan.  We recommend posts at least 10 feet tall with 10' row spacing, 36" plant spacing, but no trimming of apical meristems.

    Project objectives:

    These are the objectives of this study:

    1) Determine the suitability of a short-trellis system for growing hops in Michigan while applying sustainable, organic methods;

    2) Validate the presumed benefits of short trellising including the following:

                - Lower capital cost to install;

                - Reduced labor costs (installation, crop inspection, harvest);

                - Reduced harvest mechanization (can access bines from pickup bed);

                - More efficient spray application;

    3) Determine recommendations for the following:

                - Post height above ground;

                - Row spacing;

                - Plant spacing;

                - Manually trimming apical meristems as bines approach the top wire to promote side growth;

    Most of the evaluation is based on practical observations from our experiences throughout the two year study.  In addition, a small Design of Experiments analysis was made based on the plant and row spacings and yields.

    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.