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

    Proposal summary:


    Craft beer production in Michigan is continuing its strong growth trend with 825,103 barrels produced in 2014, up from 582,909 in 2013, according to the Brewers Association. Accompanying this growth is an increase in demand for locally sourced ingredients, most notably hops. Nevertheless, high capital costs have hindered a commensurate increase in Michigan hop acreage. While short trellis systems have been tried as a means to lower initial and ongoing agricultural investment, their application has been largely limited to less marketable dwarf varieties. If the short trellis is to address the hop demand shortfall, it needs to be optimized for the most demanded, non-dwarf cultivars as well.

    This will address the needs of craft brewers as well make hops production more accessible to farmers/producers, especially small scale farmers.

    Specific production benefits include 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


    Because Cascade is the most utilized hop in Michigan (http://msue.anr.msu.edu/new/planning_for_a_new_hopyard_1_considering_varieties), this study seeks to optimize a short trellis system for Cascade hops through a two-factor, two-level, full-factorial Design of Experiments. Primary parameters under study for both main effects and interactions are row spacing and plant spacing, with each configuration in a dedicated plant row. Two additional rows will serve as centerpoint controls, to improve analysis confidence.

    To further tailor this conventional hop to the short trellis, apical meristems will be cut upon reaching the trellis top wire to promote increased lateral growth.

    420 plants will spaced:

    Row, Plant Spacing, Row Spacing

    1 (centerpoint)36"10'

    2 36" 10'


    4 (centerpoint)30-48"10'/8'



    Spacing selections are influenced by results from Roy Farms in 2007 where shorter row spacings, as low as 8', increased yields. 36" and 42" are two common plant spacings for Cascade, with which we are most interested in the interaction effects with row spacing.

    Row beds have been rototilled 5' wide and 250' long. Rye grass and red clover were seeded as cover between rows. Cultivation will be used for weed control until plants reach 2', when coir strings will be hung with 2 bines per string. Row plantings will be hilled.

    A 10' short trellis will utilize untreated black locust for organic compliance.

    Initial soil analysis was performed by MSU and nitrogen/phosphorus/potassium added at recommended rates. Annual soil analysis will be performed to evaluate fertilization needs.

    Drip irrigation will begin at 2 gallons/week/plant and increase to 8 gallons/week.

    Parameters for future evaluation may include fall vs. spring planting, irrigation rates, fertilization rates, pest control, weed control, cover crops, trellis arrangement, bines per string, and strings vs. netting. A solar irrigation pump may be added in year 2.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Make hops production more accessible and profitable to farmers/producers, especially small scale farmers, by optimizing a short trellis system for Cascade hops through a two-factor, two-level, full-factorial Design of Experiments.
    2. Benefit the environment by designing a system that will minimize pesticide and fungicide application and water use.
    3. Share project results through YouTube videos and a field day.
    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.