Hop Marketing, Traceability, and Quality

Hop harvest 2018 has come to completion for the state of Nebraska. (Woohoo!) Now is the time for some reminders about protecting the quality of hops in the drying, packaging and processing procedures so that we can continue to protect the integrity of the small industry here in our state. This post is not meant to be harsh – it is meant to be our commitment to “doing it right,” our commitment to quality.

If you’ve completed a hop harvest this year, long before now, you’ve built a relationship with your buyers, likely a regional brewer over many conversations. You’ve likely given your hops out right to test in a pilot batch or conducted a sensory analysis with them. Even before that, you’ve dried your hops down to ~10% moisture, packaged them in air tight wrapping that keeps light and moisture out, and possibly already worked with a processor to pelletize your crop. Either way, you’ve established with your buyer what varieties they want, what processing they expect, and the price they will pay per pound. You’ve put a lot of sweat into growing and long hours into the relationships that ultimately determine the beers that your hops create wonderfully refreshing flavors in.


Marketing your hops is no easy task. If you’re just getting started in hop production or interested in hop production, hear me out. Before you consider putting a single plant in the ground, determining if there is a market for your hops and where should be your priority. “If I grow it, they will come,” is the furthest from the truth in this case. Being able to prove that you can produce a quality product goes hand in hand. Because the fact of the matter is, brewers don’t need the hops produced here in Nebraska. There are thousands of acres of hops produced each year in the Pacific Northwest. However, brewers and consumers of their beer, want to support local hop production when growers “do it right.” Yes, there are tax incentives for brewers using local ingredients, but at the end of the day, brewers must provide consistently great tasting beer for their consumers to keep them coming back.

So if you’re considering hop production, my recommendation to you is to reach out to a brewer you may have a connection with or would like to build a relationship with. Sit down with them over a beer, (And don’t expect them to be at the tap room on a weekend) and have a genuine conversation about what they are looking for from local hop producers. Discuss what local means to them; what varieties they’d like to have in their beers; what post harvest processing they’d like their products to undergo – i.e. fresh, dried whole cone, pelleted; how much they would pay per pound; how they would use the hops in a beer – i.e. bittering or aroma; what their expectations are for chemical spray record keeping, packaging, lab analysis testing, etc. There is much work that goes into these relationships. A quick phone call to a brewery with no previous contact, or a facebook post of your hops isn’t going to cut it these days.


In the interest of protecting quality and integrity of our small industry here in Nebraska, getting a grower number is another step hop producers should take. It is likely that hop processors and/or brewers in the region will require this step. It is of no cost to the grower to obtain a number, nor does it require a membership in the Hop Growers of America. Acquiring one has two requirements:

  1. Are growing hops with the intent of commercial use
  2. At a minimum, have a quarter of an acre of hops

“Grower numbers are an important tool used in the hop selection process, as important as variety and lot numbers…This standard has been a part of the hop industry in the Northwest for decades, and has helped guide brewers, not only for reasons of raw material traceability, but also for reasons of consistency and familiarity with individual farms. Grower numbers are one of a number of data points that we log with every brewer’s cut that we assess and have helped us to recognize the farms and the growing regions that produce the best hops for our beers. As commercial hop growing moves out of the Northwest and across the country, having a standardized system in place that connects the bale to the growers in these new regions is obviously important.”

– Firestone Walker Brewmaster Matt Brynildson

To apply for a grower number, email a completed Grower Number Application Form and email it to growernumber@usahops.org.


The following is the story of the brewers of Scratchtown Brewing Co. in Ord, NE, and two hop producers in Valley County, Nebraska. They discuss how they developed their relationships, and how they’ve helped set an industry standard here in the state. Quality production has been a key piece of the progression of their relationships.

From the standpoint of meeting, we all knew each other through either relationships in town (small town roots) or through our taproom. Each grower approached us with regard to our interest in local hops. We were receptive, IF (and a BIG IF) they were committed to “doing it right.” To our great satisfaction, both hop yards were. The biggest difference I’ve seen between the “hobbyists” you’re talking about, and the two fantastic Valley County hop producers we have is mindset. From day one, both Loup Valley Hops and Legendary Roots Brewing Supply have been dedicated to a commercial producer’s ethic. From grower, to packaging, to sales, they’re treating it like an agricultural commodity for use in commercial brewing operations. The focus on quality and high standards in packaging is essential for commercial brewers. I can’t keep track of how many hobbyists have called us with just-harvested wet hops and asked if we’re ready to buy. We’ve had no relationship, no conversation and no information on the quality of their product. The answer is now always no, unless they’ve put in the kind of work both our Valley County hop yards have. Wet hops are incredibly hard of us to use and we prefer packaged varietals that have shelf life.

Finally, we’re really determined to develop a Valley County terroir for our beer and each yard in our county is essential for us to do so. We are so thankful to have what we do out here. Hyper-local is where its at!” – Caleb Pollard, Owner, Scratchtown Brewing Co.


From a hop growers perspective,

“It’s not your typical farmin’:  Mike and Caleb were encouraging but very much told us from the beginning “you need to educate yourselves about hops and decide if it’s right for your operation”.  So we spent some time, effort, and expense to seek out the education on the agricultural aspect of hops production.  The typical Nebraska farming operation is wheat, corn, and beans and we were no different.  We quickly learned that growing hops was a huge shift for us both in terms of growing, processing and marketing of the crop.  Working with Mike and Caleb, they gave us great guidance (aka hand holding) on hop harvest readiness during our first year which helped us immensely.  We’re still very much rookies but increasingly comfortable with hop production.

Growers really need to understand how hops are used:  For us we needed to understand the difference in varieties, pellets vs. whole leaf, wet vs dry, bittering vs aroma.  We also recognized we needed to understand how our potential customers would use this product, so we did some home brewing and got some brewery tours, and watched videos and read books.  Having a basic understanding of the brewing process has helped us to establish credibility and rapport with brewers.”

-Kevin Wagner, Owner, Legendary Roots Brewing Supply, Ord, NE  

*This is one unique story among the hop producers in Nebraska. If you and a brewer have a story you’d like to share, please email Katie at katie.kreuser@unl.edu.* 

So what does quality hop production mean? It means scouting your hops throughout the season to keep disease and insect pests to a minimum. It means submitting samples to a lab for alpha and beta acids, moisture content, and hop storage index values. It means using the proper packaging and storage measures to ensure hops don’t mold or break down. It means understanding how the hops are used in the brewing process. It means knowing your hops – specifically how they were dried, what aromas they provide to beer, etc. There’s a chance YOUR hops won’t have the textbook aromas.

The hop production and brewing industry in Nebraska has made great strides, thanks to the efforts of the brewers and growers in the state who have put quality first. Whether you’re a grower or a brewer, the consumer is what matters at the end of the day. Do you have questions in how to proceed as a hop producer in Nebraska? I cannot build relationships for you, but I can point you in the right direction.

Looking to get into hop production? Looking for ways to connect with other grower and brewers in our state? Check out the upcoming 3rd annual Nebraska Grower and Brewer Conference & Trade Show! We have some new and exciting ways for you to grow, learn, connect and contribute to the industry here in the state.


To ask questions or subscribe to this blog, email Katie at katie.kreuser@unl.edu.



Late Season Downy Mildew Management

It’s been a very wet couple of weeks in Eastern Nebraska, with few signs of rain letting up before the end of this week. It’s challenging to harvest, continue management, let alone, get into the fields in many cases, with weather like this. Be aware as the season winds down that downy mildew is still very active for the next couple of months, and the steps we take now can have a big impact on the disease pressure in the 2019 season.

Hop Downy Mildew

Hop Downy Mildew, caused by the organism Pseudoperonospora humuli, is one of the most devastating diseases for hop producers. It is important to manage and control as it has the potential to destroy entire crops. Its survival from season to season, and its ability to infect the crown are why you must be proactive in control measures. In systemically infected plants, plants become weakened by a reduction in carbohydrate reserves. Your best management strategy for controlling downy mildew is through a combination of cultural and chemical management strategies. Another note of caution, do not wait until you see signs and symptoms of disease. Downy mildew effects plants at emergence. Scout as soon as plants emerge in the spring, and continue through dormancy.

I. The life cycle of Pseudoperonospora humuli on hop is pictured below.

downy mildew life cycle hops

Life cycle of Pseudoperonospora humuli on hop. Prepared by V. Brewster, Compendium of Hop Diseases and Pests. 

  1. Pseudoperonospora humuli overwinters in the infected, dormant crown and buds, and spreads to infected buds in the spring. The infected buds grow into basal spikes.
  2. Sporangium release zoospores from the underside of leaves of the basal spikes which can infect leaves, shoots and cones.
  3. Infection by spores occurs between 60-70 °F when free water is present for at least 1.5 hours, however, leaf infections can occur during temperatures as low as 43 °F and leaf wetness persists for 24+ hours.
  4. Infections on shoots can become systemic when the mycelia grow throughout the plant, eventually reaching the crown and buds.

High disease pressure, fungicide timing with weather events, challenges with spray coverage and wash-off, and cultivar susceptible to disease are some of the factors that allow downy mildew to infect hop yards even with the best strategies.

Critical times during the season to place focus on management for downy mildew include: before and after training, lateral branch development, bloom, and cone development.

II. Signs & Symptoms

The first signs of downy mildew in the spring appear on emerging shoots from the crown. Rhizomes of infected plants may have reddish-brown to black flecks and streaks.  These basal shoots (or “spikes”) are bright, chartreuse green, have shortened nodes, small, curling leaves, and appear stunted. Leaf infections manifest themselves as water-soaked lesions between veins, which become brown and necrotic. Given ideal environmental conditions, asexual spores (sporangia) may develop in a mass underneath infected leaves and spikes with a fuzzy, gray to black appearance.  However, as these masses are not always present growers should not rely on them as a sign of the disease.

If the pathogen is not treated, new plant tissue will become infected as it grows up the coir. While new shoots can be trained, yield loss may still occur. In the transition from vegetative to reproductive growth, side arms will emerge, similar in appearance to the spring basal spikes. Infected flowers shrivel and may fall off.  Cones become discolored, harden and cease development if infected early in the season; if infection occurs later in the season only the bracts may be discolored.


III. Cultural prevention strategies for Hop Downy Mildew:

  1. Source clean plant stock
  2. Adequately space plants ~42” apart
  3. Prune in the spring when weather permits. Ideally, one mechanical prune and one chemical prune have shown to be most effective for downy mildew control.
  4. Do not apply overhead irrigation
  5. Defoliate lower 3’ of plant once plants reach proper maturity (bines become woody) to increase airflow
  6. Manage weeds in the hop rows to increase air flow
  7. Cultivate between rows when able to reduce compaction, encourage soil aeration, and to kill zoospores


IV. Chemical Strategies:

Cyazofamid (Ranman, FRAC 21) and Ametoctradin + dimethomorph (Zampro, FRAC 45 plus 40) are products that have shown to be effective fungicides in a rotation for controlling downy mildew. Rotating and mixing these products with cymoxanil (Curzate, FRAC 27), famoxadone + cymoxanil (Tanos, FRAC 11 plus 27, *not registered for hops in South Dakota*) and phosphonate products such as fosetyl-Al (Aliette, FRAC 33). Copper-based fungicides can be rotated in when disease pressure is low.

The fungicide resistance action committee (FRAC) assigns a number and/or letter to group active ingredients that have the same mode of action and target site.  Repeated application with the same mode of action and target site greatly increases a pathogen’s ability to develop resistance.  Refer to pesticide labels and FRAC codes for assistance in rotating active ingredients.  These codes can often be found in the upper corner of a fungicide label.  Rotating active ingredients and modes of action, using of tank mixes with multi-site activity, and integrating non-chemical controls assist in managing fungicide resistance.

V. Pre-harvest Management

As harvest quickly approaches, management is key, especially when the bracts begin to form and close into cones, and again during the process of determining maturity.

Protecting cones as they close is important because you will want to keep organisms out of your cones. Products such as famoxadone + cymoxanil (Tanos, FRAC 11 plus 27, *not registered for hops in South Dakota*) & copper hydroxide (Kocide 3000, FRAC M1), or mono- and dibasic sodium, potassium, and ammonium phosphites (Phostrol, FRAC 33) and Reynoutria sachalinensis extract (Regalia, FRAC P5), or Cyazofamid (Ranman, FRAC 21) are great options to protect cones maturing. Ranman and Regalia are especially helpful for late maturing varieties because of low Pre-Harvest Intervals, 3 days and 0 days, respectively.

Another note on downy mildew management around harvest. It is important to monitor disease presence and weather conditions as you approach harvest windows. In some areas, fog, rain events, and high humidity allow for a proliferation of downy mildew around harvest, and some cultivars may need to be harvested earlier to protect from heavy disease infections on cones. If you are in an area that is prone to these type of weather events, this should be taken into consideration.

VI. Post-Harvest Management

Hop Downy Mildew can become increasingly worse in hop yards from season to season if the disease is not managed properly following harvest. Because the disease is not as visible, it is easy to consider the management of the disease to be done after harvest. Downy mildew is active as a zoospore in the fall, searching for a place to overwinter in its protective structure called an oospore. The zoospores actively seek out rhizomes and new hop roots to infect, and travels to the new crown buds to wait for spring. This period is between cone harvest and when the foliar growth has fallen from the bines in late fall, which is also when new crown buds are being formed. Protecting the new buds in this time period reduces disease pressure immensely in the coming spring. With any sprays, read and follow the label instructions very carefully!

Here are some steps to highly consider incorporating into your hop yard after harvest this season:

  1. Apply an organic manure. In addition, you can use your soil tests to guide you on other additional amendments that might be needed.
  2. Cultivate/disk. Work in manure, knock out weeds, and aerate the soil to kill zoospores in the soil. Remove in rhizomes you cultivate up. Do not keep for planting as they could be infected.
  3. Follow up with a fungicide application of Tanos + Kocide 3000 or Aliette as a heavy basal spray. Do not mix Kocide or Curzate with Aliette.
  4. Apply a phosphonic acid two weeks later as a drench around the crowns or inject through drip system. Repeat 3-4 weeks later.

Tanos – curative systemic fungicide that is absorbed into the hop plant & kills mycelia. *not registered for hops in South Dakota*

Kocide 3000 – copper-based contact fungicide that kills fruiting structures and spores.

Aliette – fungicide that breaks down into phosphonic acid and systemically moves down into the plant.

Preparation for Hop Harvest 2018

As we near the end of July, and the summer sun builds the sweat on my brow from simply standing outside, I am relieved when I remember that it’s almost harvest ale season! Speaking of harvest season… hops harvest 2018 is almost here! Here are some pointed on determining when your plants are ready. There are multiple ways to check readiness for harvest, and I recommend utilizing as many avenues as you are able. The most reliable way to know your hops are ready is by submitting samples to a lab.


-When to send in hops for analysis?

Should: If you are new to growing hops, send in a sample when you notice the color of the cone and the color of the lupulin start to change. Lupulin will change from a bright yellow to a deep golden color as cones ripen.

Must: After hops have been dried and conditioned to <12% moisture, send a sample in for analysis called the brewer’s test (alpha and beta acids, Hop storage index (HSI), essential oils). The results of these analyses go to the brewer and provide confirmation of quality. It helps the brewer know the quantity of hops needed in beer recipes.

-How to sample your yard:

Ideally, collect 4 cones per plant, 1 from each quadrant, and at least 60 cones per cultivar from   as high as possible.

What do the different tests mean (brewer’s test)?

Alpha acids – Bittering

Primary alpha acids: humulone, cohumulone, adhumulone

Beta acids – Longevity, antimicrobial properties

Primary beta acids: lupulone, colupulone, adlupulone

Hop Storage Index (HSI) – % alpha acid loss after 6 months at 76 degrees F. With proper refrigeration, hops maintain most of their quality two years after harvest.

Essential oils – flavor & aromas

As a grower, you also should check your hops often for physical changes to the cone. If you have access to a hand lens (10x) or a dissecting scope, identifying ripened trichomes can provide a valuable understanding of when cones are ready.

When to harvest (look, feel, smell):

  1. Cone weight – cones become lighter in weight
  2. Cone moisture – feel less moisture in the cone overtime; dry matter content down to 20-25%
  3. Lupulin color – Lupulins turn from white/white yellow to golden
  4. Lupulin shape – Lupulin glands near full, like an acorn, and become opaque
  5. Lupulin/cone smell – No grassy of alfalfa type smell in crushed cones
  6. Bracts – become papery and lighter in color; edges start to brown

Conducting dry matter tests, are another option you can include, though this method may not line up with acids and oil maturity.

Limited target dry matter percentages are available for a few varieties (Hop Harvest Guidelines, ISU Hop Workshop Series 2017):

  1. Cascade – 22%
  2. Centennial – 23.7%
  3. Chinook – 23.4%
  4. Fuggle – 21%
  5. Galena – 22%
  6. Mt. Hood – 23%
  7. Nugget – 23%
  8. Tettnang – 21%
  9. Willamette – 20%

To determine the percentage of dry matter, start with 5-10 random samples of the same variety from side arms throughout your hop yard. If possible, take samples within 1-2 feet of the top of the trellis, and when morning dew or rain is not present. Combine the 100 to 150 cones in a bucket. With your collection complete, you can now determine the dry matter. You will need a scale that calculates weight in grams.

Using the scale, weigh an empty container and the container with the freshly picked hops, keeping record of both weights. Next, you will dry your hops sample down to zero percent moisture. You can do this using a food dehydrator, a Koster Moisture Tester, or a microwave or conventional oven.

  1. Food dehydrator – drying cones between 140-150 degrees F overnight allow cones to dry to 100% moisture.
  2. Koster Moisture Tester – continual monitoring of cones is necessary with this method as cones are dried quickly.
  3. Microwave or conventional oven – this method also requires regular monitoring to prevent scorching your cones. If using a microwave, dry at 50% power and check cones every 30 to 45 seconds (this will prevent heat build up in the microwave).

When the cones reach a stable weight, weigh the dry hops and record the weight. The following equation may then be used to calculate the percent dry matter of the cones.



What if my alpha and beta acids do not meet the industry standard range?

If your hops’ acid contents do not test in the standard ranges, there could be a couple of issues. Your hops could still be maturing and therefore, you should wait 4-7 days to test again. Your hops may also not be fully mature. This often occurs in the first 1-3 years of harvest. As yield increases in the first few years, you should expect your acid levels to improve as well.

How long is the harvest window for hops?

The harvest window for each hop cultivar varies. The window is generally 7-10 days upon ripening.

I separated my cones from the bine. Now what?

The moment hops are separated from the bine, the clock begins ticking before the compounds begin to break down and oxidize. Summer heat and humidity increase oxidation and chances of mold and mildew developing on freshly harvested hops, which may contain up to 80% moisture. You have roughly 45 minutes to begin drying your hops or to bring them to a processor before they begin to break down.

Why do I need to dry my hops?

Hops may be incorporated into the brewing process in several forms. Wet or fresh-hopped beers (harvest ales) utilize hops directly from the bine, and generally bring out the most aromas from the hops. Because of the proximity of growers to brewers, most hops are dried to preserve the aromas and acid content present in the cones. From drying, they can be added to brewing recipes, or may be further processed into products such as pellets or hop extract.

Are there food safety guidelines I should be aware of?

According to the FDA, hops used in commercial production of beer are eligible for exemption from the FSMA Produce Safety Rule regardless of what point in the process they are added (before or after the boil). In the bill of lading, invoice and/or the unit of sale for wet hops needs to have the words,

“not processed to adequately reduce the presence of microorganisms of public health significance”

on it. In addition, the purchaser of the hops needs to provide proof that they actually used the hops in the making of beer. That can be a letter, but it needs to be written and kept by the seller.

**One last and very important note: during this critical time of harvest preparation, do not forget to regularly scout your hops. Spidermites, aphids, hop downy mildew and other pests can completely wipe out your harvests at a rapid rate.**

Upcoming Events

Hops Field Day

  • August Field Day – 6th Meridian Hops

          4200 Alphonse Rd, Yankton, SD 57078

          Saturday, August 4, 11 AM – 4 PM

UNL Hops is teaming up with the South Dakota Specialty Producers Association & 6th Meridian Hops to present a Growing Hops Tour. The event will include a tour of 6th Meridian Hops, oasting, baling, and pelleting demonstrations, a presentation on “Late Season Downy Mildew Management,” and opportunities for networking. Hop producers, interested growers, brewers, and the general public are welcome. The event is free. Please RSVP at Growing Nuts & Hops SDSPA Tours.

Harvest Demonstrations

So your hop cones are ready for harvest. Now what? Join Nebraska Extension for demonstrations of the Hopster 5P hops harvester in action.

  • Friday, August 17

Panhandle Research & Extension Center, Scottsbluff, NE lead by Stacy Adams and Gary Stone as part of the Season Extension Seminar for specialty crop growers.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) is a hosting Season Extension Seminar and hops production and harvesting demonstration Aug. 17 at the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center, 4502 Avenue I, in Scottsbluff. 

      The seminar, which will last from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., is targeted to specialty crop growers, who will have the opportunity to connect with a retailers interested in sourcing local produce, learn about affordable financing options, and watch a cooking demonstration using locally grown produce.

      There is no cost to attend, but individuals need to RSVP by Aug. 13 to casey.foster@nebraska.gov or 800-422-6692. A complimentary lunch will be provided. 

      The Season Extension Seminar (from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.) will address the steps involved in implementing a variety of season extension methods, including crop selection, growing techniques, soil nutrition, disease and insect management practices, alternative hybrid varieties, reduced tillage strategies, intensive farming practices, season extension units (high tunnels), and market and selling strategies.

      A university horticulturalist, extension educator, Farm Service Agency representative, local retailer, and NDA representative are scheduled to be the featured speakers. Attendees will receive an educational book related to specialty crop production.

      The hops production and harvesting demonstration will begin at 2:30 p.m. It is intended for people who have an interest in hops, hobbyists, opportunists, or individuals exploring high-value specialty crops as a profit making venture.

                Topics include: hops growth and development, trellising systems, plant production, an update on Nebraska hops cultivar evaluation research, harvesting and marketing.  Participants will explore the hops research plot at the Panhandle Center and watch a hop cone harvest demonstration using the Hopster 5P cone stripping unit.

Friday, August 24, 2-4 PM, UNL East Campus Hop Yard

UNL East Campus, Lincoln, NE lead by Stacy Adams and Katie Kreuser. This informal event will demonstrate the use of the Hopster 5P, discussions on preparation & hop harvesting, and provide a tour of the UNL Agronomy & Horticulture’s quarter acre hop yard. RSVP to katie.kreuser@unl.edu.



July Nebraska Hop Update

Hops are in full reproduction growth mode, sending side arms out full of burrs that will soon be lupulin-filled cones. Early harvested varieties in Nebraska, such as Centennial and Willamette, have already developed cones, though their readiness for harvest is still a few weeks away. We are at a critical point in the season to take the necessary precautions to prevent advances of insect pests and diseases as cone development continues full force.

What should I be doing at this time in my hop yard?

You should be scouting at a minimum 1-2 times per week, walking your yard in different routes each visit, and if manageable, walking your entire yard each time. Identify pests and their economic thresholds, and treat accordingly.

You should be implementing cultural practices to encourage air movement and reduce disease and competition.

  1. Remove weeds in the hop rows to reduce competition for water and nutrients, and to help reduce disease pressure and increase air movement.
  2. Defoliation of lower leaves by mechanical hand stripping or application of AIM EC + crop oil should be done to remove the bottom 2-3 feet of leaves and excess shoots. Be sure stems are woody before chemical defoliation. Apply at a rate of 2-3.2 fluid oz/A to basal 18 inches of plants. When making additional applications, allow 14 days between applications. With harvest approaching, be aware of any chemical’s pre-harvest interval (PHI). AIM has a 7 day PHI.

Recently defoliated hop row in Michigan, July 2018.

What is happening in hop yards across Nebraska?


Downy mildew: Recent rain events, cooler temperatures, overcast days, and sitting water has been the perfect recipe for increased downy mildew presence. You should be making regular applications of fungicides, rotating modes of action to decrease chances of resistance development. With burr and cone development, it is especially critical to prevent downy mildew infections.

foliar DM 2018

Foliar downy mildew present on a cascade hop plant, July 2018.

Fusarium canker: Storms and wind events coupled with loose coir on trellises have and continue to cause breakage of bines around the base of the hop crown. Fusarium is a fungus that thrives in wet soils and has been known to cause minor issues in hop yards in Eastern Nebraska. Ensuring your trellis and coir is tight will help reduce instances of fusarium damage in your hop yard.


Question mark caterpillars: A new potentially problematic pest to hops in Nebraska (but has been recorded elsewhere) is the question mark caterpillar, Polygonia interrogationis. The damage is similar to that of Japanese beetles, with the potential of completely defoliating plants in a matter of days.

Japanese beetles: Japanese beetles continue to wage war against hops in the Eastern part of the state. Applications of bifenthrin appear to keep them at bay for 5 or so days. We are continuing to monitor changes in populations as the season progresses.

Minimal presence of twospotted spider mites (TSSM), potato leaf hoppers, grasshoppers and hop aphids are being reported at this time. It is important to scout regularly for these pests and treat when economic thresholds are reached. TSSM (threshold for treatment = 6-10/leaf) and hop aphids can potentially be quite detrimental and cause total yield loss in worse case scenarios.



Leaf mottling and other leaf discolorations are being reported by growers, indicating hop mosaic virus and potentially other viruses. Confirmed infections appeared in hop yards across the state are likely caused by infected plants at establishment. Be aware as you seek to expand your current hop yard or establish a new hop yard that the industry is unregulated in most states including Nebraska, and sources stating “propagation from virus-free mother stock,” “guaranteed virus free stock,” etc. does not guarantee anything. Be aware of spreading the virus among plants in known infected hop yards as well. If you have questions about reliable sources for hop plants, please contact me directly. You may find my contact information here. For testing, submit samples to the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic at UNL. For directions on submitting samples, please visit: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/plantdisease/pest-samples.

Upcoming Events

To learn more about managing pests at this time of the season and what you should be doing to prepare for harvest, join UNL Extension & the Nebraska Hop Growers Association for a field day on July 21st at Oak Creek Hops in Kearney, NE, 10 am – noon, followed by a tour and discussion with the brewer at Thunderhead Brewing Co. (201 F Ave, Axtell, NE 68924). RSVP by emailing katie.kreuser@unl.edu or by selecting “going” on the facebook event here so that we have enough food and materials. 


Chinook hops happily climbing in late June, 2018.



Seasonal Hop Update

The summer solstice is behind us, and growers are watching as bines stretch to reach the top wire, and beyond in some instances. By this time during the season, growers are able to see which varieties are vigorous compared to others, and can makes notes for future determinations of spring pruning and training. Here in Nebraska, we experienced some above average temperatures leading up to Memorial Day weekend, and more recently in parts of the state, we watched a significant amount of rain fall and temperatures fell in to the 60’s. In looking at the forecast this morning, more high heat is anticipated in the coming days. Here’s what to keep an eye out for in your hop yards in the coming weeks.

  1. Heat/water stress: Symptoms such as leaf tip wilting or necrosis, or wilting bines could be a sign that your hops are not receiving adequate water. Plants have a significant more amount of biomass as compared to before Memorial Day, and should thus be given more water.
  2. Downy mildew: With recent rain and cooler temperatures, be on the lookout for foliar symptoms of downy mildew, as well as infected side shoots (pictured below.) For more on hop downy mildew management, read here:  https://nebraskabinetimes.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/hop-downy-mildew-nebguide.pdf

    downy lateral shoot

    A hop downy mildew infected side arm.

  3. Potato Leaf Hoppers: Numbers have been present and populations are increasing as reproduction occurs. Damage has been reported throughout the state. Their pierce-sucking mouth parts and saliva damage the leaves, causing severely damaged leaves to curl, and within days, a yellow halo and necrotic leaf margins become visible. While not economic threshold has been established, severe cases should treat with insecticides such as bifenthrin. Scouting of previously affected hop varieties should be spot checked multiple times per week, especially following storm events.
  4. Twospotted spider mites: While weather conditions are necessarily conducive for spider mite infestations, applications of insecticides for other insect pests, along with drying air and warming temperatures encourage building mite populations. Be aware, especially as flowers and cones begin to develop, as TSSM can cause complete economic loss. They are best managed while populations are low. Often times, TSSM will infest on the edge of a hop yard and move along the row and move inwards. Following spray applications or during ideal weather conditions, edges of hop yards should be scouted carefully.
  5. Japanese Beetles: Japanese beetles showed up in the past couple of weeks. Due to cool temperatures, their activity has been fairly minimal, however, some isolated populations have been severely skelotonizing plants. Generally, the majority of concern for damage by Japanese beetles is in regards to the leaves, however, in a few rare cases, they have nibbled on the cones.
  6.  Weeds: I cannot say enough regarding weed control as the season continues to progress. The competition for water, nutrients, and light are detrimental to your yields. It is important to control weeds – using hand weeding and careful applications of herbicides. Your soils should be nice and soft from recent rains – now is a great time to take advantage and do some hand pulling 🙂
  7. Nutrient management: Growers are beginning to see burring if they haven’t already. Now is the time to begin scaling back nitrogen applications, however, as a grower in the height of the season, you should continue to make small (2-5 lbs/A) weekly applications of nitrogen to help the plant maintain its large biomass as it prepares to set cones. Now is also an excellent time to take samples for petiole testing to analyze a variety of nutrient levels in your hops.
  8. Viruses: Recent high temperatures may be the cause of foliar symptoms of viruses such as apple mosaic virus appearing in hop yards. Be on the look out for these symptoms. If you think you have symptoms present, please contact me at katie.kreuser@unl.edu with a photo of the infected plant/leaf.
  9. Scout: Scout regularly! It’s far easier to treat problems as they arise than when they’re much larger.


RSVP for our upcoming field day!

July Field Day –  Oak Creek Hops & Thunderhead Brewing Co.

Kearney, NE

Saturday, July 21, 10 am – 12 pm

Join us for a light breakfast, a tour of Oak Creek Hops, and a seasonal pest management update. Attendees are welcome to convene for lunch following at Thunderhead Brewing Company. Lunch and beverages will be available for purchase. RSVP to katie.kreuser@unl.edu.


Nebraska Hop Seasonal Update

Hops are well on their way up the coir across the state. Here’s what you should be aware of in your hop yards currently.

  • Agronomic practices.
    • Training should be completed at this time. Bines should be wound clockwise around coir or twine.
    • Extra bine removal. This improves airflow reducing downy mildew risk. This can be completed manually, or chemically once bines are 6-10’ tall and woody towards the base. Chemicals, such as carfentrazone (Aim) can be used. The bottoms 3’ should be removed.
    • Weeding. Along with extra bine removal, this also improves airflow and reduces disease risk in hop yards. At this time of the season, Clethodim (Select Max) may be applied to annual and perennial grass weeds; glyphosate, pelargonic acid (Organic), and 2,4 D may be applied to broad leaf weeds. ***Read the chemical’s label and follow directions carefully. Be aware of wind speed and temperatures when applying as drift may occur. Most herbicides will damage hop plants when in direct contact. Photo below of glyphosate damage.glyphosate damage 3
    • Irrigation. Regions of the state vary dramatically in rain. Ensure that your plants are receiving adequate water to continue rapid growth. Hops need 10-14” of water per day. Watch for heat and water stress during periods of high heat and lack of rainfall.
  • Scouting. 
    • It is important to pay close attention to your hop plants during the growing season to prevent major infestations.
    • Walk diagonally across your yard in order to cover both edges and inner portions of your plants; revisit hot spots for disease or insect pressure in the past. Scouting should be done once per week during the growing season at a minimum.
    • Proper diagnosis ensures that the correct treatment can be pursued.
    • Be aware of nutritional deficiency symptoms.
  • Fertility. 
    • Late May to late June is a critical time frame for hop production & fertility applications.  
    • Hops need adequate Nitrogen (N) and other nutrients to reach the top wire prior to beginning reproductive growth in late June/early July.
    • Liquid applications of N through drip are best, however, granular may be your best option. When applying granular, work N into the soil and add water.
    • To determine where your hop plants N needs are in the middle of the growing season, measure the internode length at the end of June. If the internodes are longer than 8”, then too much N has been applied. If internodes are shorter than 8”, more N is needed next season.
    • Remember that some N is still needed when hops are in the reproductive phase. They are adding a lot of biomass, and need small amounts of N periodically.
    • In addition to soil tests each year, it is recommended to conduct tissue tests/petiole tests to provide a detailed nutrient analysis. If deficiencies are found, foliar or granular treatments may be applied.
  • Pests
    • Downy Mildew. Disease pressure has been significant despite recent high temperatures. If symptoms are present in your hop yard, treat accordingly.
    • Potato Leaf Hoppers (PLH). Adults arrived in recent weeks in storm currents.
      • What to look for: tiny, bright green, wedge shaped insects; leaf curling; yellowing halo and/or burned leaf margins (“hopper burn”).
      • While there is no economic threshold known for PLH, it is recommended that treatment begins when ~6 PLH are present per leaf. There are beneficial insects and sprays to control PLH. Be aware insecticides will wipe out beneficial insect populations too. If opting to treat, scout regularly following applications for secondary infestations of spider mites.
      • PLH are cultivar specific (Mt. Hood, Tettnanger, Newport, Chinook, and Triple Pearl).IMG_4483
        • Twospotted spider mite. If you grow in dry areas, be aware of mites. Infestations often begin in one corner and spread.
          • What to look for: bronze or white appearance on leaves from feeding of mites reducing photosynthesis (heavy infestations).
          • If more than 4 spider mites are detected per leaf, a pesticide application may be necessary. Mites can cause total crop loss if left untreated.
        • Hop aphids. These may begin to appear later in the season, but growers should be aware of aphids when they are scouting.
          • What to look for: pear-shaped, 1/10”, some have wings.
          • They remove nutrients and moisture from plants with sucking mouth parts, and secrete honey dew which encourages secondary organisms to grow such as sooty mold. Both damage the quality of hop cones.



***Treated Acres versus Sprayed Acres: When planning applications of any herbicide, one should refer to the label before taking any action. Generally, application rates are listed on labels as pounds, pints, or quarts per acre. Most herbicides are applied over the hop rows, otherwise known as banded applications. Calculating the correct amount for a banded applications is important for your hops. There are 43,560 square feet in one acre. In a 1 acre hop yard with 14 feet between rows, there are 3,111 feet of row (43,560/14). Bands are approximately 4 feet wide, resulting in 12,444 square feet or 0.28 acre of area to treat (3,111 x 4). Following the label without calculating banded applications could result in much higher concentrations of herbicide being applied, and therefore causing severe damage to your hop plants.
Steps to Calculate Banded Rates1
A. Divide total square feet of one acre by row spacing in feet to determine feet of row per acre. (43,560/14 = 3,111 ft)
B. Multiply the feet of row per acre by the band width in your hop yard to determine the square footage to be treated. (3,111 ft x 4 ft = 12,444 sq ft
C. Divide treated area by area of one acre to calculate the percentage of one acre to treat. (12,444/43,560 = 0.28 = 28%
D. Multiply the percentage of acre to be treated by the label broadcast rate (in this example, 1 pound). 0.28 x 1 pound = 0.28 pounds
E. Multiply the percentage of acre to be treated by the recommended volume of water for an acre to determine the amount of water to use per acre. 0.28 x 30 gallons = 8.4 gallons
1. ID-462-W – Hops Production in Indiana, Integrated Pest Management Guide for Hops in Indiana 2015


Upcoming Events – Save the dates!

July Field Day –  Oak Creek Hops & Thunderhead Brewing Co.

Kearney, NE

Saturday, July 21, 10 am – 12 pm

Join us for a light breakfast, a tour of Oak Creek Hops, and a seasonal pest management update. Attendees are welcome to convene for lunch following at Thunderhead Brewing Company. Lunch and beverages will be available for purchase. RSVP to katie.kreuser@unl.edu.

August Field Day – 6th Meridian Hops

Yankton, SD

Saturday, August 4

UNL Hops is teaming up with the South Dakota Specialty Producers Association & 6th Meridian Hops to present a Growing Hops Tour. The event will include a tour of 6th Meridian Hops, oasting, baling, and pelleting demonstrations, a presentation on “Late Season Downy Mildew Management,” and opportunities for networking. Hop producers, interested growers, brewers, and the general public are welcome. RSVP at Growing Nuts & Hops SDSPA ToursAugust 4th Agenda. 


Harvest Demonstrations

So your hop cones are ready for harvest. Now what? Join Nebraska Extension for demonstrations of the Hopster 5P hops harvester in action.

Friday, August 17

Panhandle Research & Extension Center, Scottsbluff, NE lead by Stacy Adams and Gary Stone.

Friday, August 24

UNL East Campus, Lincoln, NE lead by Stacy Adams and Katie Kreuser.

Hop Training

Hops across Nebraska are vigorously regrowing from chemical and mechanical pruning events in recent weeks, and the time to train is here.

Pruning and Training Record 5 11 2018  c.xlsx.jpg

“Training time is one of the most critical factors in determining yield, due to the relationship between plant height and day length, which affects flowering.” 

-Spring Activities, USA Hop Growers of America

Training you hops involves the selection of 2-3 bines of about 2 feet in height per string per plant, and guiding them clockwise around the string. The plant’s trichomes and response to touch and light will continue to guide the bines up the string. The remaining bines may be chemically burned down later in the season. You may find that some varieties, like Chinook, have already begun training themselves up the bines (and often more undesirable bull shoots). You should remove those bines from the string and re-select bines to train in this case.

For those with baby hops, you should not prune until the following season.


Research has shown that when determining when to train your hops, it is better to train too early rather than too late. In one such study in the Czech Republic, studying some of the less vigorous hop varieties, they found that yields were reduced by about 10% when trained to early, however, when trained too late, yield loss averaged 40%. In general, varieties harvested early should be trained early, and those harvested later should be trained later. Each variety is case by case though, so going by seasonal notes is in a grower’s best interest. No matter your location, all hops should be trained by June 1. (If you are growing on a trellis other than a commercial 18′, recommendations for training date will vary.)

With a few years of hop agronomic data now collected in Nebraska, we’re able to make better predictions about optimal training dates. In your own hop yards, records of spring weather, plant vigor, fertility applications, and other data is critical to select optimum pruning and training dates in future seasons.

For controlling weeds during this time of the season, growers should focus on grassy weeds and wait until bines are around 8-10 feet tall to control broad leaf weeds.

Scouting is important throughout the season. Keep an eye out for downy and powdery mildew, two spotted spider mites, hop aphids, and potato leaf hoppers that will blow in with storms. Walk different routes through your hop yard at least once each week, and keep detailed notes.


*2018 Nebraska Hop Acreage Survey*

Nebraska Hop Growers: In the coming weeks, we will be contacting you through the Nebraska Hop Growers Association or through the Nebraska Hop Extension Listserv to collect information for the USDA NASS. We will be asking for your name or name of your hop farm, the county where you’re growing, and your acreage or number of hop plants strung for 2018 harvest. Please plan to be a part of this survey as it helps us in future funding opportunities including supporting Nebraska Extension agent support.

Thank you in advance!




  1. Introduction to Hop Production
    • Friday, June 8, 4-6:30 pm
    • Plant Science Hall, Room 199; Hop yard tour weather permitting
    • Cost: $10
    • Email Katie at katie.kreuser@unl.edu to register.

Field Days

  1. Saturday, June 2: Homestead Hops, York, NE
    • 8:30 am – light breakfast & socializing
    • 9:00 am – hop yard tour and pest management update
  2. Saturday, July 21: Oak Creek Hops, Kearney, NE
    • 10:00 am – light breakfast & socializing
    • 10:30 am – hop yard tour and pest management update


**3rd Annual Nebraska Grower & Brewer Conference**

January 13-14, 2019 (Sunday-Monday), Embassy Suites, Lincoln, NE