Development of pest and nutrient management strategies for hop production in the Northeast

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2016: $161,412.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2020
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Dr. Heather Darby
University of Vermont Extension

Information Products


  • Agronomic: hops


  • Crop Production: fertigation, nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Pest Management: biological control, genetic resistance, integrated pest management, physical control
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, soil chemistry

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem and justification:There are more than 400 acres of hops in the Northeast with hop yards ranging in size from 0.25 to 25 acres. These farms are increasing their hop acreage and new growers continually enter the industry. Hop yield is limited by pests and lack of fertility knowledge. At our 2015 Annual Hop Conference out of 57 growers who completed our survey, 51, 50, and 48 identified that more information on fertility, disease management, and arthropod pests respectively, would help them grow a higher yielding crop. This is a new industry in the Northeast and growers are asking for proper introductory education, which will have a direct and significant impact on hop yield and farm profitability. Yield reaches 1500-2000 lbs/acre in other production regions yet most NE growers are below 800 lbs/acre. Growers invest $12,000/acre in hop infrastructure. In order to make that monetary commitment worthwhile, growers must address pest and fertility issues to increase yield. We know hops can be grown successfully in the region; Vermont hop production peaked at nearly 300,000 kg of dried hops produced in 1860 (Kennedy, 1860). We need to rebuild our agronomic knowledge base and most importantly spread the gained knowledge to farmers. Solution and approach:The UVM Extension Hops Program is continually asked questions about pest management in hops. After 5 years of applied research and outreach, we understand what the major pests are and that nitrogen rates for hops should be high and requires precise timing. However we still have limited information on best control strategies and proper fertility rates and timing. We hypothesize that grower education on sustainable pest management and grower collaboration on nutrient management recommendation development will increase NE hop yield. Pest management research trials will include a biocontrol impact study, a hop downy mildew (DM) crowning trial, and a variety trial of regionally collected hop germplasm. A nitrogen management trial including rates and timing will also be conducted. To better gear hopyards for fertility management and plant health, contributing to pest defenses, soil sampling and test reading will be offered. Our educational approach is to create a coinciding research-based education curriculum where participants utilize the factsheets and tools we have produced, join our “ID Hour”, watch our hop YouTube videos, and attend conferences and workshops. We have specifically designed “ID Hour” and “Field Action Cards” to track and reflect farmer progress and participation. Performance target:Forty farms in the Northeast will adopt at least one new pest and/or nutrient management practice on a total of 100 acres and as a result their average hop yield increases by 400 lbs per acre resulting in a increased gross revenue of $6,000 per acre.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Forty farms in the Northeast will adopt at least one new pest and/or nutrient management practice on a total of 100 acres and as a result their average hop yield increases by 400 lbs per acre resulting in a increased gross revenue of $6,000 per acre.


    The overall goal of the project is to develop and deliver region specific pest and nutrient management practices to increase hop yield in the northeast.

    Objective 1: Develop region specific mechanical control strategies for managing downy mildew in hops.

    Hypothesis 1: If the most effective crowning method is identified, then the amount of inoculum will be reduced and hop yields will increase.

    Fungal diseases are the primary concern in northeast hop production. The regional climate offers ideal cool and wet weather that is optimal for hop downy mildew. Downy mildew has been present in all scouted northeastern hop yards. To prevent downy mildew and reduce the amount of disease inoculum, farmers use several methods of primary basal spike removal. The most effective methods have not been identified in the region.


    Objective 2: Quantify the impact of natural enemy arthropods on pests in northeast hopyards.

    Hypothesis 2: If the ability of natural enemy arthropods to combat pests is quantified, hop growers will encourage these populations, reduce losses from arthropod pests, and increase yields.

    The high-intensity western hop industry has made several conventional fungicides and insecticides available for use on hops. Many farmers are concerned about the impact these products have on beneficial organisms. Also, we have observed broad-spectrum insecticide sprays to cause secondary outbreak of spider mites. These outbreaks cause more devastating yield and quality loss than the target pest. We propose to quantify biological control services in hop yards of varying agricultural intensity.


    Objective 3: Screen wild hop germplasm for unique pest resistance and quality characteristics.

    Hypothesis 3: If wild hop rhizomes are collected, pest resistance and/or unique quality characteristics will be identified.

    Currently hop growers plant cultivars selected for regions with different climates and high-input practices. Many cultivars in demand from brewers are proprietary and unavailable to growers in our region. Additionally, the commercially available cultivars that are less susceptible to mildew are still subject to economic losses due to yield reduction from disease. It is critical that we begin an active cultivar evaluation of historic germplasm to identify potential pest and/or unique aroma varieties.


    Objective 4: To develop optimum nitrogen rates for hops in the northeast.

    Hypothesis 4: If growers apply optimum nitrogen rates than yield and quality will increase.

    Northeastern hop yield is lower than other production regions and we have learned very little about hop fertility management. Research has shown that the effects of N fertility on hop quality characteristics are conflicting (Brooks and Keller, 1960); one recent study indicated an inverse relationship between soil N availability and hop quality (Ceh, 2014). Also, there is a lack of available hop industry knowledge. We will work to create a hop nutrient management plan and compare methods of testing for plant tissue nitrogen that farmers can easily conduct in the field themselves. Also, we will educate and provide guidance to farmers on how to conduct soil sampling and interpret test results.

    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.