Assessing Soil Fertility and Soil Health in Midwest Hop Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2018: $98,561.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2021
Grant Recipient: The Ohio State University
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Steven Culman
Ohio State University


  • Agronomic: hops


  • Crop Production: fertigation, fertilizers, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    The hop production industry has benefited greatly from the continued popularity of craft beer. The U.S. is second in the world in total hop acreage and production with new farms entering the market each year. Within the Midwest, harvested hop acres have increased from 380 acres in 2014 to 939 acres in 2016 with the majority of production coming from Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Research in this area has primarily focused on integrated pest management (1PM) and disease control with very little attention provided to soil fertility and soil health. However, soil fertility and health have consistently been identified by North Central hop growers as a critical area where they need better information for effective management. This proposal will address this knowledge gap with the following objectives: i) document relationships between soil fertility and soil health with hop cone quality and yield, ii) develop more reliable leaf petiole nitrate values for N management of hops, and iii) develop educational materials and continue outreach efforts for optimized nutrient management in North Central hopyards. We'll partner with approximately 20-30 hop growers primarily in Ohio and Michigan and sample 50 total hop yards each year. Farmers will sample and ship us soil, petiole and hop cones throughout the season for laboratory analysis. We will quantify soil fertility and health, nutrient levels and hop cone quality. We will relate these characteristics to management practices and elucidate relationships between soil quality and hop quality and yield. We will document typical nutrient ranges for 3-4 key hop varieties grown in the Midwest. Finally, we will develop education and outreach materials that provide guidance and best practices targeting soil and nutrient management. This work will address a widely identified research need by the hop growing community in the North Central region and provide tools for growers to optimize soil and nutrient management and subsequent economic profitability.

    Project objectives from proposal:


    Learning Outcomes

    Farmers will learn:

    (1) Soil health basics and its importance in crop production;

    (2) Interpreting soil tests to inform nutrient management decisions; and

    (3) Using petiole sap testing to monitor nutrient uptake in hops.

    Action Outcomes

    Upon completion of our project, farmers will:

    (1) Include monitoring soil health in their hopyard management plans;

    (2) Use fertilizers to boost overall soil health as necessary based on first interpreting soil test results; and

    (3) Monitor nutrient uptake in petioles in order to make real-time nutrient management decisions in the field.

    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.