- Agronomic: hops
- Crop Production: irrigation, application rate management
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: agricultural finance
- Production Systems: general crop production
Traditional trellis systems for hops stand 18 feet or more in height. Many New England farmers are growing hops on low trellis systems of 12 feet or less due to the high cost and difficulty of installing
the traditional trellis systems, and lack of appropriate sized equipment. While it is known that low trellis systems result in lower yields compared to traditional systems, the extent of this decrease has not been fully quantified. There is ample interest from farmers in the Northeast to quantify how much of a decrease in yield occurs on hops grown on a low trellis system in order to determine if the
costs savings and other advantages of these systems outweigh the disadvantage of lower yields. The goal of our project is to investigate the growth habits, pest management, fertilizer and water
requirements, and yield of hops grown on a low trellis system of 12 feet compared to hops grown on a traditional trellis system of 18 feet.
With virtually all of the hops in the United States coming from the Pacific Northwest, there are very few local sources of hops for New England brewers. With the recent push to support local farms,
there has been increased interest in the craft beer industry to produce beers brewed with locally grown ingredients, increasing the demand for hops in the Northeast.
One of the biggest obstacles to hop farmers in the Northeast is the cost and logistics of constructing the trellis system on which the hops will grow. Hops are a perennial bine, capable of growing more
than 20 feet in one growing season. Traditional trellis systems in the Pacific Northwest stand 18 feet tall with ½ inch, or thicker, cables running along the top of the trellis poles. Strings are anchored in the ground at each plant and tied to the cable, allowing the bines 18 feet of vertical growth. Many of the small-scale hop farms in the Northeast have decided to construct low trellis systems of 10 to 12 feet, due to the cost and difficulty of installing the traditional trellis systems, potential neighbor concerns or zoning issues on smaller lots, and lack of appropriately sizes equipment.
Conventional wisdom says that the low trellis systems result in lower yields since a large portion of the hop cones are produced on the upper half of the plant. Consequently, there is ample interest in the Northeast hop farming community to quantify how much of a decrease in yield occurs on hops grown on a low trellis system to determine if the cost and time associated with traditional 18 foot trellis systems is justifiable.
The goal of our project is to investigate the growth habits, pest management, fertilizer and water requirements, and yield of hops grown on a low trellis system of 12 feet compared to hops grown on
a traditional trellis system of 18 feet.
Project objectives from proposal:
Of the three species within the Humulus species, Humulus lupulus, a perennial climbing bine indigenous to the northern hemisphere, is the only species of importance to hop farmers. Hops were initially used in beer as a preservative, and while they still serve that purpose, they have now become an important component to the flavor and aroma of beer, more specifically craft beer that is produced in the many microbreweries located in the Northeast and other parts of the country.
Our project will investigate the growth habits, pest management, fertilizer and water requirements, and yield of hops grown on a low trellis system of 12 feet compared to hops grown on a traditional
trellis system of 18 feet. Since hops generally take two to three years to mature before producing a sizable harvest we propose to replace half of our existing low trellis system with a new 18 foot trellis system in order to compare harvests from mature plants.
Our current hop yard consists of seven rows of plants with 60 plants per row. We have four different varieties planted: Cascade, Nugget, Newport, and Chinook. Each row has five poles between 12 and
12.5 feet above ground. All of our existing plants are between two and four years old and should produce mature harvests in 2011. To compare the two trellis systems (high versus low), we will
remove the 12 foot poles from four of the rows and replace them with new poles that stand 18 feet above ground. This will allow us to compare adjacent, established hop plants on low and high trellis
systems that are of similar age and on similar soils.
Of the seven established rows, five are planted entirely of Cascade. In order to have replicates for the trial, we proposed to install high trellises on two of the Cascade rows and leave three rows on the
low trellises. Using this method we will have at least two rows of the same variety on the different trellis systems to investigate the different growth habits.
The existing poles will be removed in April and replaced with new 22 foot poles (4 feet below ground and 18 feet above ground) in the same location. This will minimize the disturbance to the plants since the work will be performed in the same location as existing poles prior to or just after the break in dormancy. In total 20 poles will be removed and 20 new poles will be installed. Once the new trellis system is installed the coir strings will be anchored at each plant and tied to the top support cable. Training of the plants up the strings will occur throughout the growing season.
To minimize the effect of weeds on the productivity of the plants, routine weeding will occur throughout the growing season. Weeding will be performed using hand tools to avoid damage to the
plants. In addition, weekly mowing of the grass between rows will be performed to prohibit the formation of grass seeds, maintain adequate air flow, and allow for access to the plants.
Weekly pest and fungus scouting will occur throughout the growing season. Based on previous experience, it is anticipated that three spray events will occur throughout the growing season to
control pests such as aphids and the formation of powdery and/or downy mildew.
Regular monitoring of irrigation water needs will be performed throughout the growing season. The amount of water and fertilizer will be recorded for each trellis system.
Additional data collection will occur on a weekly basis. Plant growth and development will be recorded including bine height; plant condition and vigor; bud, flower, and cone formation
information; average cone size; lupulin color and smell; harvest date; and yield weights. All data will be recorded on data sheets in the field and transferred to Microsoft Excel sheets for recording.
Harvesting, drying, and weighing will all be performed by hand.
Once the cones are harvested they will be dried for 24 to 48 hours and weighed (hop cones are sold in ‘dry’condition).