FSMA Produce Safety Rule & Hops

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a law signed in 2011, provides major changes to food safety laws in the United States. Depending on the size of your farm, compliance dates are as early as January 2018. The law’s Produce Safety Rule (PSR) covers a wide variety of produce, including hops. Today, I will address what you need to know as a hop grower going forward. I am also excited to welcome Dr. Connie Fisk, our regional expert on food safety, to speak at the Nebraska Grower and Brewer Conference in January.

According to the rule, hops are not included in the “rarely consumed raw” category. The rule states:

We are aware that hops are regularly added to beer after all cook steps are completed in a process known as “dry hopping” (Ref. 90). Therefore it would not be reasonable to infer on this basis that hops were not consumed uncooked in any measurable quantity by most consumers across the United States, and we are not adding hops to the list of rarely consumed raw produce. Instead, hops are covered produce subject to the requirements of part 112 as applicable. However, we note that hops used in the making of beer will be eligible for exemption from the requirements of part 112 under the provisions of § 112.2(b)(1), provided the covered farm establishes and maintains documentation in accordance with § 112.2(b)(2).

So as a hop grower, what do you need to do?

If you averaged more than $25,000 revenue from hops in the past three years, you need to take the following steps:

  1. Determine whether the hops sold were used in the brewing process or “dry hopping.”
  2. If the majority of the hops were or will be brewed (not used for dry-hopping), request a letter from the purchasers that includes information on the processes the hops will undergo and details of how the pathogens will be killed, such as fermenting or cooking).

If you average more than $25,000 revenue from hops and the majority were used in the dry-hopping process, your farm is covered under the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. This requires that you adopt the Produce Safety Rule.

Any farm covered under the Produce Safety Rule will need to send a single employee to Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Training. Once training is complete, you are eligible for an On Farm Readiness Review. When a farm is ready, a review gives growers the chance to apply the rule, and learn about how to be compliant. Check here for upcoming training opportunities.

Additionally for ALL growers, two steps should be taken:

  1. The bill of lading, invoice and/or the unit of sale has to have the words, “not processed to adequately reduce the presence of microorganisms of public health significance” on it.
  2. The person who bought it needs to provide proof that they actually used it in the making of beer.  That can be a letter, but it needs to be written and kept by the seller. (Refer to step #2 above).


Implementation Dates 

Implementation dates are based on total produce sales from an individual farm.

Large business: earned more than $500,000 in average produce sales in the past 3 years. Compliance date: January 26, 2018.

Small business: earned between $250,000 and $500,000 in average produce sales in the past 3 years. Compliance date: January 28, 2019.

Very small business: earned between $25,000 and $250,000 in average produce sales in the past 3 years. Compliance date: January 27, 2020.

Even if you are not required to be in compliance immediately, you should begin to take the necessary steps to begin implementation. The hops market is still a very small market in the region and we should do what we can to prevent anything from ruining it.

hop bullet

If you have questions, contact Katie Kreuser, Hop Program Coordinator, by phone, 402.472.3036, or by email, katie.kreuser@unl.edu.


Hop Viruses

Viruses have become an increasingly greater concern in Nebraska, where new hop yards are being established frequently. Whether you’re a new grower or interested in growing hops, or a seasoned grower needing to refresh virus management protocols, anyone involved in growing hops will find this post relevant.

There are three carlaviruses that infect hop plants: American hop latent virus, Hop latent virus, and Hop mosaic virus. Another potentially problematic virus that infects hops, and that will be discussed in this post, is the Hop stunt viroid. The difference between a virus and a viroid is the variations in their genetic and protein makeup.

The one most likely to inflict damage is the Hop mosaic virus. The main reason for concern besides a virus’ ease of spread is their ability to reduce the growth of infected plants. Yard establishment and yields are affected, generally reducing yields by 15%, however, some varieties have shown a reduction of up to 62%. While growth is jeopardized, the good news is that changes in brewing characteristics of the cones seems to be minimal in general.

Viruses are spread through propagation, root grafting or through agronomic management practices such as pruning in the hop yard. Infected plant material is the most common form of spreading over distances. Aphids have the ability to transmit viruses from feeding on plants, though it doesn’t happen reliably. While aphid control through spraying may seem like an option for controlling the virus spread, it likely only cuts back on secondary transmission.

Due to carlaviruses having a minimal host range, concern for other hosts are, for the most part, only other hop plants in a yard.

The most practiced method of virus prevention in the hop yard is sourcing certified disease and virus free plant material. See more from the previous post here.

Apple Mosaic Virus

Apple mosaic virus is the most serious of the carlavirus diseases to affect hop plants.

The virus commonly appears on hop leaves as necrotic rings or arcs, which sometimes become oak-leaf like patterns. Severity of symptoms depends on weather patterns. Typically they worsen when periods of cool weather are followed by periods with high temperatures. In many cases, symptoms do not appear, until the right environmental conditions acerbate the plant, meaning the infected plant could be in the yard for years without knowing. When extremely severe outbreaks occur, cones and their alpha acid content can be damaged. When weather conducive for infections to occur is not present, infections may remain unknown due to symptoms not being present. Multiple viruses can infect plants increasing infection severity.

Since infections of Apple mosaic virus aren’t detectable by the human eye when symptoms aren’t present, spread of the virus can also go undetected. The importance of regularly testing propagated material for virus presence, and purchasing certified disease and virus-free plants is important for this reason.

The rapidity of spread depends on the variety, protocols of propagators, and environmental conditions. There are no known insect vectors of Apple mosaic virus.

Managing infected yards begins with sourcing clean plants. When it comes to pruning to set your spring training date, the use of contact herbicides is best. If tools must be utilized for spring pruning, tools should be cleaned aggressively between each plant. General best practices recommend soaking tools in a 10% bleach solution for a 10 minute period. (Note that results have been inconsistent with this method.) If you suspect virus presence, plants should be tested immediately. As a general rule of thumb, if more than 10% of plants in a hop yard are infected, the entire yard should be replanted; if the infections are present on less than 10% of plants, individual plants should be culled.

Hop plants can be a challenge to cull. In late summer, cutting the infected plant at the base and painting the top of the crown with concentrated glyphosate should kill the plant, including the roots. On some occasions, multiple applications may be necessary.

Apple mosaic virus Take Home Notes:

  • When establishing a new hop yard, use certified virus-free plant material.
  • Use contact herbicides for spring pruning to remove basal growth and prevent virus transmission.

Hop stunt viroid

This serious hop disease is capable of alpha-acid content of cones of infected plants by 60-80%. Like the Apple mosaic virus, symptoms of Hop stunt viroid are affected by the variety of hop and the weather. In some cases, the presence of the virus went undetected for five years, enabling the spread of the virus through infected plant material. Common symptoms are visible in stunted bines in early spring that appear pale in color in comparison to healthy bines. In periods of rapid growth, internodes are shortened in virus presence, by as much as two-thirds. Wamer weather reflects more severity in symptoms. As the season progresses, infected plants are inhibited from producing lateral branches. This results in small and sparsely produced hop cones, that are developmentally delayed. Lower leaves remain pale in color throughout the growing season. The yellow speckling symptom of Apple mosaic virus has also been present, and could be a result of multiple virus infections on one plant.

Research has shown the Hop stunt viroid spreads through propagation and mechanical means. No evidence exists to suggest it is transmitted by seed or insect vectors. Once established, the primary mode of spread is through agronomic practices via tools or equipment used in pruning, thinning or leaf stripping. In the spring, hop plants have higher sap levels aiding in the virus’ transmission.

The best form of management of any virus, including Hop stunt viroidis beginning with clean plant material. Proper removal procedures should be followed for virus infections on a small number of plants in a hop yard, including the removal of roots. Due to the delay in symptoms, it is often recommended to remove a few plants on either side of infected plants in the same row as a preventative measure. In late summer, cutting the infected plant at the base and painting the top of the crown with concentrated glyphosate should kill the plant, including the roots. Areas where plants are killed should be left fallow for one season in case new shoots emerge for a second treatment. For larger infections, growers should consider soil fumigation as well.

The generally recommended practices for virus management should be followed for Hop stunt viroid as well.

Hop stunt viroid Take Home Notes:

  • When establishing a new hop yard, use certified virus-free plant material.
  • Remove any small number of infected plants to prevent further spread.
  • Use contact herbicides for spring pruning to remove basal growth and prevent virus transmission.
  • If replanting, remove any volunteer hop plants.
  • Aggressively and thoroughly wash all farm equipment.
  • Disinfection of tools between plants may prevent further spread. (10% bleach solution for 10 minutes.)

Clean Plant Sources

While the topic of today’s blog is crucial to those seriously considering establishing hop yards, it is also an important discussion for current growers. Disease prevention in our hop yards and greenhouses begin with sourcing clean plant material. The spread of viruses, powdery and downy mildew, insect pests such as Japanese beetles, and other pests through plant material occurs too often. When you can simply purchase hops on google and amazon, I cannot stress enough to proceed with caution. In fact, the only source I can fully endorse is the Clean Plant Network which propagates certified disease-free material. You can read more from their website here. When making efforts to establish a proper trellis system and proper irrigation, why not begin with clean plants too? Set yourself up for success from the beginning.

Diseases such as downy mildew are well established in the eastern portion of Nebraska. Beginning with clean plant material provides growers a clean slate with which to begin. That being said, a pest management plan and program should be in place to prevent future infections. Since brewer demand determines varieties to produce, growers should especially be prepared for preventative action on more susceptible varieties. As research continues to develop in this new industry for Nebraska, we hope new variety development will address some of the disease challenges.

If you have concerns that you have infected material, you may submit it to the UNL Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic for testing. They are currently setting up services to include virus testing. You can read more about sample submission here.

[I’ll be covering hop viruses in the next post. Stay tuned.]


What disease challenges have you had this season? What further information can I provide you with that will help to further your success as a hop grower?


Nebraska Fresh Hop Beer List

One of the many advantages to brewers incorporating local hops into their recipes is the use of hops for fresh hop (wet hop) beers, when the cones’ aromatics are freshest and unique. Fresh hop beers are made with hops within 24 hours of picking, and are not processed in a kiln or stored. For me, it’s the official end to summer, and the beginning of fall.

Get out and enjoy them while they last!

Fresh Hop Beers:

Pals Brewing Company

  • Five Fools & A Preacher (Pale Ale)
    • Made with 70 lbs of wet Cascade hops from Burning Barn Hopyard in Brady, NE. All hops used within 24 hours of picking.

Soaring Wings Vineyard and Brewery

  • Torpedo Bomber. An American Pale Ale.

Bolo Beer Company

  • Stec Farms Fresh Hop Golden Ale
    • Used 10 lbs of fresh Chinook grown right here in Valentine at Stec Family Farms.   The light malt body showcases the intricate floral and spice characteristics of fresh Chinook.

Brickway Brewery

  • One Way Scarlet Letter (Cream Ale)
    • Made with wet Triple Pearl from Midwest Hop producers.

Upstream Brewing Company

  • Schwedhelm’s Wet Hop Ale, 4% ABV, 35 IBUs
    • Made with wet Cascade hops from Schwedhelm Hop Yard
    • Appearance: Hazy, Deep Copper / Light Brown
    • Flavor & Aroma: Orange, Mango, Grassy Pine, Biscuit, Cracker, Balanced Bitterness, Dry Finish

Farnam House

  • Hop Harvest Saison
    • A complex, hazy gold, farmhouse ale that is dry and earthy with spice notes, yet zesty with citrus hop flavor.  The pleasant floral aroma comes from a gratuitous Amarillo dry-hop addition and additional notes of citrus and fresh cut grass come from the fresh hop Cascades fresh from the fields of Midwest Hop Producers. ABV: 6.5% IBU: 40


  • Carpe Brewem Harvest Ale
    • We did 2 distinct batches using the same base beer of a Pale Ale but with different hops:
      Harvest Ale Batch 1 – Nebraska grown Centennial and Brewers Gold hops
      Harvest Ale Batch 2 – Nebraska grown Cashmere and Yakima Gold hops

Brewed with local hops:

SchillingBridge Winery and Microbrewery

  • Belgian Citrus Wheat
    • NOT fresh hopped however…. It’s brewed with Nebraska grown hops that Midwest Hop Producers pelletize.

Prairie Pride Brewing Company

  • Oat Sower Porter – 7.1% ABV, 35 IBUs
    • A bold and dark brew with a studly oatmeal character.  It’s robust maltiness is balanced with smooth finish.  Nebraska grown Newport, Chinook and Columbus hops

Scratchtown Brewing Company

  • Workin’ Man Dortmunder Export
    • Dortmunder Export lagers are an old German style of beer made popular by 19th century union workers of the day. Hailing from Dortmund, Germany, these pale to golden lagers exhibit a classic clean character with notes of biscuity malts. Bitterness is akin to a German Pilsner with an aromatic aroma. Somewhat similar to our Sandhills’ Gold, this clean and refreshing lager finishes crisp. Made with Nebraska grown hops.


Have more to add to the list? Email Katie at katie.kreuser@unl.edu or Gabby at gabby@nebraska.beer. (Feel free to include beers that aren’t fresh hopped but are brewed with locally grown hops.) We’re working with the Nebraska Craft Brewer’s Guild to compile a fresh-hopped beer list.

Soil Testing


Bines have been taken down, and now you’re beginning to plan for next year’s growing season. When bines are removed, nutrients are taken with them. The best way to get a jump start on replenishing  your crop is by conducting soil tests in your hop yard(s) this time of year. Results will determine exactly what your crop needs nutrient wise for next year. *Soil tests should be taken around this time each year – post-harvest, and if possible, samples should be analyzed by the same lab for consistency and to monitor changes.*

Sampling instructions from Midwest Labs:

“For each hop yard, soil cores should be taken throughout at a depth of 12-15 inches so that your sample will be representative of your growing area. This may take up to 15-20 soil cores per acre. If you need to borrow a soil probe, check with your local extension office; if needed, one can be purchased for around $100-$150. All soil cores should combined and mixed together in a clean plastic bucket, then roughly 2 cups should be removed and submitted for testing. A soil bag from the lab you are using or a zip-lock freezer bag will work. Label the bag and the lab paperwork so you know where the sample came from when the results come back.”

Locally, Midwest Labs offers soil testing services. Click here and scroll down to “soil sample” to download the submittal form. Tests should provide soil pH levels; organic matter levels; major nutrient levels in soils needed by hops including nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K); and other nutrient soil levels important to hops including calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), boron (B), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), and sulfur (S).

The proper management of water and nutrients helps to optimize growth and yields while reducing pest issues.


What to do with your results?

Soil pH: As reflected in the above image, the soil pH in your hop yard should be in the 6.2-7.3 window. Both macro- and micronutrient availability is best at this range. If pH levels are above 7.5, amendments should be considered as nutrients become unavailable at the range. Sulfur fertilizers are one option. If ranges are too low, lime amendments should be added such as calcium carbonate or wood ash.

Nitrogen: Hops need a lot of nitrogen to reach the top wire in the growing season. Depending on yields, plants could remove up to 150 pounds of Nitrogen per acre from the soil in a season. Yields of ~1000 lbs/acre will remove 80-90 lbs of N per acre; ~2000 lbs/acre yields will remove 150-170 lbs of N per acre. Your yields and organic matter content in the soil directly determine nitrogen needs for next season. While we generally have great levels of organic matter in the soils in Nebraska, there may be special circumstances where additional nitrogen will be needed to address an organic matter (OM) deficiency. Beyond first year hops, *N recommendations are as follows:

  • 1-2% OM –> apply 150-200 lbs N/acre
  • 2-5% OM –> apply 100-150 lbs N/acre
  • >5% OM –> apply 80-100 lbs N/acre

*Leaf petiole tests are often more reliable for predicting nitrogen needs of your crop. Petiole testing is done during the growing season when plants are at least half way up the trellis. Several petioles should be collected as a representative sample throughout each variety. There are currently no University recommendations for petiole N tests. The PNW has recommendations of the following. Do keep in mind that growing conditions and soil vary significantly in some areas of Nebraska.

A general basis for nitrate-N levels from petiole testing in the PNW:

  • 0-6,000 ppm = low
  • 6,000-10,000 ppm = normal
  • 10,000+ ppm = plenty

Nitrogen should be added primarily between mid-May and mid-June during the vegetative growth stage of hop plants. Once flower begins, nitrogen applications should be reduced significantly, but it is important to add small amounts to continue healthy plant development (2-5 lbs N/acre every 1-2 weeks).

Phosphorus: High levels of phosphorus are not required by hops. Even yields of ~2000 lbs/acre only remove about 30 lbs/acre of P from the soil. These are recommended application rates based on soil test results.

If the soil test for P is (ppm)* then apply this amount of phosphate (P2O5) (lb/a):

  • 0-30 ppm –> 60-100 lb/a
  • 31-60 –> 0-60 lb/a
  • over 60 –> 0 lb/a

(*Soil test using Bray and Kurtz P1 (ammonium fluoride) extracting solution.) [Hops. C. Gingrich, J. Hart, and N. Christensen. 2000]

Potassium: At harvest, hops remove anywhere from 80 to 150 lbs of K/acre. Levels of potassium are classified in soil test results as low, medium, optimum, high and excessive. For low levels, 100-120 lbs/acre of K should be added; for medium levels, 80-100 lbs/acre of K should be added; for optimum levels, 40-60 lbs/acre of K should be added.

Micronutrients: While essential, these nutrients are only needed in small quantities. They are best applied when blended with other fertilizers or through irrigation lines.

Boron: While generally not an issue, boron is an important nutrient. When deficiencies are present, terminal buds die. As a guideline, 1-2 lbs/acre of boron should be added to the hop yard.

Zinc: Zinc deficiencies often occur when pH levels are high and soil organic matter is low, resulting in weak growth and side arm development. The PNW recommends an addition of 2-4 lbs/acre of Zn if soil levels are lower than 1 ppm.

Sulfur: Sulfur deficiencies can occur in Nebraska. If needed, 30-40 lbs/acre of sulfur should be applied annually.


  • Commercial synthetic fertilizers are generally 100% available to plants.
  • If applying compost, I would highly encourage you to have their nutrient values tested. Furthermore, find out what percentage of N is available in the first year. Be informed so that you can make precise applications.
  • If making soil pH adjustments in preparation for a new hop yard, it is best done prior to planting.
  • Always keep detailed records for future, reliable references.

If you have further questions regarding fertility recommendations please feel free to contact Katie Kreuser, Hop Program Coordinator, University of Nebraska Extension at 402-472-3036 or katie.kreuser@unl.edu. Check out upcoming events at http://agronomy.unl.edu/nebraska-hops and http://www.growbrewnebraska.com/.






Save the Date – Final 2017 Workshop

Our final workshop of the season is quickly approaching. Are you thinking seriously about putting in a hop yard? Are you currently growing hops and looking to expand your yard and knowledge? This workshop may be for you. Make plans to join us Saturday, November 4, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Presenters will cover every detail between selecting a site for a hop yard to post harvest practices. More specific topics include:

  • Botany & Chemistry of Hops
  • Environment, Site & Soil Requirements
  • Integrated Pest Management, Diseases, Nutrients & Weeds
  • Building a Hop Yard/Country Club Build Out video
  • Water Requirements & Irrigation
  • Harvesting, Picking & Drying Systems
  • Processing, Packaging & Storage
  • Production Timeline
  • The Real Costs of Hop Production
  • Open Panel Discussion

The workshop will conclude a tour of Midwest Hop Producers, weather permitting.

The cost of the full-day workshop is $150, including lunch. To register, follow the link here. For questions, please contact Katie Kreuser, at katie.kreuser@unl.edu or 402-472-3036.


Post Harvest Hop Yard Management

Harvest 2017 is in the books, and there’s a nip in the air that hints that the fall equinox is not far away. Take a deep breath and relax as the to do list around the hop yard grows small in preparation for winter.

Post Harvest Agronomic Practice Recommendations

Bines, 2nd year and older, should’ve been cut back to 2-3 feet above the ground at harvest. Following the first hard frost and at least 4-6 weeks after harvest, bines can be cut to a few inches above the soil. For 1st year plants and older, aerial shoots should be removed, especially if disease pressure was significant in your yard. First year bines can remain through winter or cut back with everything post frost. Plant material should be buried, burned or if disease was not present on bines, they may be fully composted.

Use this time to get control of weeds present in your hop yard. Herbicides such as Volunteer for grasses and Aim for broad-leaf weeds. Weeds provide another shelter for fungal structures to overwinter so get a head start on next season by removing them!

If your hop yard’s soil is primarily clay, you may want to take time in the fall to hill your plants. It’s also a great time to incorporate compost to replace some of the nutrients lost when hops are harvested. Soil along either side of the plants may be lightly tilled, incorporated with composted, then piled a few inches on top of the crowns. This may help to reduce chances of winter kill and kill off downy spores present in the soil. “Hilling” is a great way to improve drainage for the following season as well.

Once harvest is complete, drip irrigation should be backed off to a couple times a week at most. Growers should keep the yard on the dryer side, especially as downy mildew spores require moist soils to survive. You may find that rainfall and cooler temperatures provide sufficient moisture.

Post Harvest Pest and Disease Management

For effective management of pests and diseases all season long including post harvest, we have to look at the individual life cycles of each pest or disease. We’ll take a closer look at some of the problems we’ve had across the state:

Downy mildew. The pathogen causing downy mildew survives in the form of mycelium in plant debris and in the crown of hop plants, emerging in the spring on infected flag shoots. In the spring, mycelium develop spore bearing structures which release zoospores. Zoospores travel via the wind or rain drops, and can infect new stems, leaves and flowers, over and over throughout the season. Mild, rainy weather in the spring makes for the ideal downy mildew infection.

Since the pathogen can be harbored in debris, all debris should be removed, and buried or burned. Because the pathogen can overwinter in the crown as well, a systemic fungicide that will move down the plant may be applied. Aliette or a phosphite based fungicide are options. With little leaf tissue for application, and little research to support these applications, a better bet for those with downy infections in the 2017 growing season should use the winter to develop an aggressive protective program for the 2018 season.

Potato leaf hoppers. Potato leaf hoppers overwinter in the southeast region of the United States. Their migration north and west occurs in spring or summer storms. For this reason, there is no management needed post harvest for potato leaf hoppers.

Aphids. Aphids breed and over winter in the bark of Prunus species, such as apples, apricots or peaches. As the weather cools, aphids will mate and move back to a Prunus species to lay eggs and overwinter. No post harvest management is recommended.

Spider mites. The advantage in treating spider mites post harvest is that when hop bines are removed at harvest, most of the spider mites are removed at the same time since they’re removed fairly early in the season. Some mites will remain in plant debris or in the trellis posts for the winter. Post harvest treatments are not generally recommended unless infestations reached devastating levels. Scout your yard, counting mites per leaf. If 10+ mites are present on average per leaf, a post harvest miticide application is recommended.


Take a moment to reflect on the season, what you did that worked well, and what you will do better next year. I hope you will reap the benefits of your labors this season with a fresh harvest ale in your near future!