2017 Hop Harvest Recap – What we learned

As Nebraska’s hop industry continues to grow, each season and each harvest offers much to learn from. Careful field notes of activities, weather events, and inputs come in handy when it comes down to this time of year when questions like, “So when did I prune my hops back last year?” come up.

Here’s a few gleanings from the 2017 season:

  1. A tight trellis system is critical. Wind is a regular part of the weather across the plains, and having a tight, stable trellis system and coir prevents our bines from turning into flags blowing in the wind.
  2. Keep weed pressure to a minimum. One experimental location for the UNL hops project experienced significant weed pressure throughout the season and reported extremely low yields compared to other locations with the same varieties. Especially in the eastern parts of Nebraska, high organic matter in the soil results in more weeds. A combination of pre and post emergent chemical applications, cultivation and hand pulling can effectively manage hop yard weeds.
  3. Summer storms in mid-late June reduced yields. Summer storms, including wind and hail, suppressed important mid-season growth and delayed growth for approximately two weeks, reducing anticipated yields. We can’t control the weather, but maintaining our trellis system may prevent further damage that could result in a full loss of yields.
  4. Downy mildew is a part of hop production in Nebraska. While we’ve tried to avoid downy mildew through sourcing clean plants and incorporating preventative cultural practices into our routines, we have to face the facts that we can’t avoid it forever. With the incorporation of a fungicide program, rotating and applying products at critical periods throughout the season, in conjunction with cultural agronomic practices, downy mildew can be managed in order to produce a high quality and successful yield.
  5. Seasonal timing is a constant learning curve. Whether you’re determining when to train your bines or when to harvest, many factors are considered and no two years are the same. Training timing combines knowing when the anticipated date for plants reaching the top wire and understanding the early spring vigor of each variety. Similarly, getting to know each variety and when to harvest it is key as well. Will this variety be used for bittering or aroma in brewing? A hop used for bittering means you’ll want to harvest when alpha acids are within the recommended ranges. Hops used for aroma may require stalling harvest and letting the aroma of the cones to fully develop. You can never take enough notes during these critical periods of each growing season!
  6. Disease susceptibility. As studies progress, we are learning more about pests and diseases, and their preference to specific varieties, and varieties’ susceptibility to diseases. Potato leaf hoppers and Japanese beetles were common insect challenges throughout the growing season resulting in hopper burn and leaf defoliation, respectively. Magnum and Mt. Hood were most notably affected by potato leaf hoppers, and Galena and Triple Pearl seemed to be the most affected by Japanese beetles. Downy mildew and fusariam canker were evident among specific varieties, leading us to conclude that varieties affected are susceptible, and infections were not related to field location. Crystal, Glacier, Newport and Tahoma had fusarium canker issues this year resulting in some bine collapse. Downy mildew was most notable in Cashmere, Columbus/CTZ (late season), Cluster, and Yakima Gold.
  7. The top performing varieties. Chinook, Saaz, Cluster and CTZ performed the best agronomically, and met acid targets even in their 2nd full season and some producing more than anticipated yields for an 18’ trellis yet growing on a 12’ trellis. Chinook, in addition, lent itself to the Nebraska terroir, offering up enjoyable berry aromas, which typically has piney and spice notes.
  8. Some varieties don’t fare well in Nebraska. Varieties such as Perle, Willamette, and Centennial have proved to not perform well agronomically in the trials conducted. These varieties will continue to be evaluated to determine if timing of pruning, training, flowering and harvest can be adjusted to improve their performance.
  9. Unusual observations:
    1. Double/early flowering in Centennial – We observed burring in Centennial in mid to late June and again in July.
    2. Drought and high salts in the soils resulted in high alpha and beta acid levels in one location.
    3. Drippy stem blight – an unusual disease was noted in some Cashmere and Yakima Gold plants. Symptoms included a cracked main bine, a foamy and sticky exudate, an awful smell, and complete bine collapse. While the disease cause is unknown, it may be a result of the bine’s rapid cell elongation preventing it from fighting off the yeast/bacteria invading the plant. We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for this in the future.

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Workshops

  1. Hops Weed & Fertility Management – with Katie Kreuser & Stacy Adams
    • Friday, April 6, 4-6:00 pm
    • Plant Science Hall, Room 199; Hop yard tour weather permitting
    • Cost: Free
    • Pre-registration recommended. Contact Katie at katie.kreuser@unl.edu or 402.472.3036
  2. Introduction to Hop Production – with Katie Kreuser & Stacy Adams
    • Friday, June 8, 4-6:30 pm
    • Plant Science Hall, Room 199; Hop yard tour weather permitting
    • Cost: $10
    • Stay tuned for registration information.
  3. Hop Scouting Workshop – Midwest Hop Producers
    • Saturday, July 14, 8:30 am-4:30 pm
    • Cost: $150
    • Stay tuned for registration information.
  4. Hopster Harvest Demonstrations
    • Friday, August 17, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, Scottsbluff, NE
    • Friday, August 24, UNL East Campus hop yard, Lincoln, NE

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
  3. Saturday, August 4: 6th Meridian Hops, Yankton, SD
    • Full day field day including a hop yard tour; harvest, drying and baling demonstrations; late season downy mildew management and more.
    • Social to follow; food and beverages will be available to purchase through Counterfeit Curbside.
    • Stay tuned for registration information.

SAVE THE DATE!

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

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

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