To prune or not to prune.

Spring in Nebraska went from zero to sixty quickly. Weather patterns shifted, and hop plants emerged and took off in the warming sun and soil. For hop growers looking back at last year’s field notes, this is not a time to panic. I repeat. This is not a time to panic. This spring is rather normal for Nebraska, just not the norm of the past few years. So let’s talk about preparing for training — pruning.

A general rule of thumb for crowning, the practice of removing the top part of the hop crown prior to or just following hop emergence, requires a hop plant ~3 weeks for recovery and new shoot growth. This is a recommended practice for those growing in clay soils or on hills. Pruning is the practice of removing hop shoots at the soil surface, and is used to time shoots for the ideal training date. For some growing regions, late spring arrivals may mean that there is no time for a single pruning, whereas other regions may prune multiple times with early spring vigor to properly time training. Generally, hops take ~2 weeks to fully recover from a pruning.

Now with this in mind, we’re at April 30th and some of you have shoots 8-10″ tall and haven’t pruned yet. Training is recommended to occur around May 21-25th in Nebraska, however, we have begun a study to fine tune this recommendation. If you time pruning with those training dates, you have ample time to prune. Keep in mind too, the studies of pruning and training that have been conducted elsewhere have shown that yields are far more negatively affected by early training than late training (by 10-30% in yield reductions).

Questions? Contact Katie Kreuser at katie.kreuser@unl.edu.

hops pre pruning

A Chinook hop plant on UNL’s East Campus awaiting spring pruning. (April 24, 2018)

Workshops

  1. Introduction to Hop Production
    • Friday, June 8, 4-6:30 pm
    • Plant Science Hall, Room 199; Hop yard tour weather permitting
    • Cost: $10
    • Stay tuned for registration information.
  2. Hop Scouting Workshop – Midwest Hop Producers
    • Saturday, July 14, 8:30 am-4:30 pm
    • Cost: $150
    • Stay tuned for registration information.
  3. 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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Hop Yard Updates

It looks like spring might finally make an appearance in the next week or so. Hopefully that is the case because the hops have some growing to do! Despite some cold temperature and snow recently, hops are beginning to emerge, thanks to some sunshine, warmer temperatures and plenty of spring time moisture. Soil temperatures, emergence and growth may be behind in comparison to last year, but last year, everything was ahead. (What does your field notebook say around this time last year?) For preparation and tips on crowning and pruning, you can refer to an earlier post on Spring Pruning Practices. Below are hops emerging on UNL’s East Campus plots on April 16, 2018 prior to any pruning.

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While pruning, keep an eye out on your plants for weeds and signs of downy and powdery mildew. This is exceptionally important if you had either  disease presence in your hop yard last year. In preparation for management, I have a few resources linked below to help with herbicide use and weed management; downy mildew management, fungicide use and resistance management. Print and share these resources as needed.

Nebraska Herbicides for Hops

Nebraska Fungicides for Hops

Hop Downy Mildew NebGuide

To check for registered fungicides, herbicides and insecticides in Nebraska, you can visit the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Registration website.

For upcoming UNL Hop Workshops & Events, visit our website. You can follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Nh_m_Agronomy_and_Horticulture_IANR_UNL_AgroHort_RGB-large

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

Spring Pruning Practices

In the spring in most hop yards, there are two pruning events. The first, which removes bull shoots, is done mechanically or chemically as a cultural means to reduce downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora humuli) and powdery mildew (Podosphaera macularis) inoculum. Initial shoots are also undesirable due to irregular growth rates and are generally weaker than shoots that come later. These two foliar diseases are the most significant diseases of hops in the state of Nebraska, as well as other hop growing regions in the U.S.

Hops have a perennial crown with buds that overwinter on both established and new wood, and both diseases have the capability to survive winter on the buds that will produce shoots in the spring. The first shoots in the spring, if infected, will provide initial inoculum for the season. Downy mildew spikes appear bright green, stunted, and leaves curled (left photo below). Powdery mildew flag shoots appear stunted, and covered in powdery white colonies (right photo below).

The initial pruning has been shown to reduce the amount of mildew presence in hop yards and to reduce fungicide applications in the Pacific Northwest United States. You can read more about the scientific study in the American Phytopathological Society Journal here. Pruning can be done mechanically, removing everything from the soil surface to 1″ below the soil surface; can be conducted chemically (although only pruning chemically too early has not shown positive results in reducing diseased shoots); or a combination of both (recommended). If pruning chemically, Aim or Scythe are products registered for use on hops in Nebraska. While not as common, using a propane flame is another option. The more thorough the pruning, the better control of initial disease inoculum. Initial pruning can be done when shoots are 3-10″ tall. It is important to keep records of these pruning events, because each year is different.

In regions of longer growing seasons, such as the Pacific Northwest and here in Nebraska, a second spring pruning event is recommended, as pruning date determines training date, which ultimately determines plant yield. The purpose of the second pruning is to time shoot growth appropriately with plant vigor to reach maximum yields. This spring, I will be conducting a pruning trial to help us better understand what dates will help regional growers reach their optimum yield. Since ideal timing for the second pruning has not been fully determined for this region, it is best to keep records. Training, depending on variety, is done in May, when bines are approximately 2′ tall.

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A note of caution as you plan out your season and consider chemicals to control weeds and pests and diseases:

First and foremost, you should check to see if the product you wish to use is labeled specifically for hops in Nebraska. Each state is different. You can check using the Nebraska Department of Agriculture website here. Keep it bookmarked – it will come in handy! Secondly, salesmen in Nebraska are able, and will try, to sell you products that are not labeled for hops in the state. Do your research before you purchase anything. Spraying products not labeled for hops in Nebraska could later prevent you from selling your hops in the fall. (You can feel free to reach out to me or to the UNL Pesticide Safety Education Program. They can help with certification for pesticide applicators – a certification you should have if applying chemicals.) Next, once you have acquired a legal product, carefully follow the label for directions, or if applying to banded acres, use the calculations below.

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
1. 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)
2. 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
3. Divide treated area by area of one acre to calculate the percentage of one acre to treat. (12,444/43,560 = 0.28 = 28%
4. 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
5. 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

Finally, keep detailed records of all chemical applications made as this is important when you sell your final products in the fall.

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Upcoming spring and summer workshops & events:

Weed & Fertility Management Workshop

Friday, April 6, 4-6 pm
Plant Science Hall Room 199 
Cost: Free
This workshop will include educational information on managing hop yard weeds, soil and plant fertility, and hands-on development of a fertility plan for hop production. Attendees will receive a list of pre and post emergent herbicides labeled in Nebraska for hops. A campus hop yard tour will be held following presentations, weather permitting. For questions or to register, please email katie.kreuser@unl.edu.

Introductory Hop Workshop

Friday, June 8, 4-6:30 pm
Plant Science Hall Room 199 
Cost: $10
This workshop will provide information on the cost of hop production, trellis design and set up, and basic information on hop agronomics, harvest, and post-harvest processing. A local brewer will be on hand to discuss what they are looking for in locally produced hops for their beers. Check back soon for registration details. Please email katie.kreuser@unl.edu with questions.

Harvest Demonstration Workshop 

Friday, August 17, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, Scottsbluff, NE

Friday, August 24, East Campus Hop Yard, Lincoln, NE

SAVE THE DATES!

Summer Hop Yard Tours & Field Days with Nebraska Hop Growers Association

Saturday, June 2 – Homestead Hops

Saturday, July 21 – Oak Creek Hops & Thunderhead Brewing Co., Kearney, NE

Saturday, August 4 – 6th Meridian Hops and South Dakota Hops Growers & Malters, Yankton, SD – this will be a full day of education presentations, hands on demonstrations, beer tasting and food available for purchase provided by a local food truck.

hop bullet

Questions? Please contact Katie at katie.kreuser@unl.edu or 402-472-3036. Keep up to date by subscribing to the hopextension listserv, and on Twitter and Facebook by following @UNLhops. 

Spring Management in the Hop Yard

It’s hard to believe that it’s finally time to start walking your hop yards to check for signs of spring. The snow is melting and temperatures are warming. I walked the campus hop yard yesterday. Spring buds are forming around the crowns and weeds are greening up. (Speaking of weeds — have you signed up for the weed and fertility management workshop? See more details here.) As spring approaches, consider the following management activities to adequately prepare you for the growing season.

  • Clean and disinfect your equipment and tools. Removing any remnants of plant material or soil from your toils, and wiping them down with a 10% bleach or alcohol solution helps to prevent future infections.
  • Check your trellis and irrigation system. Check the trellis system by tightening any cable or anchors and checking poles for sturdiness to ensure the system can support the heavy bines later in the season. Check the drip system for any rodent damage, and run water to make sure it’s reaching all the emitters.
  • Clean up debris. Remove any debris from last season that may serve as host to pests and diseases.
  • Test your soils. If you did not test your soils last fall, now is a good time to test soils. Results provide what nutrients are currently in the soil and help to determine what you as a grower will need to add throughout the growing season.
  • Arrange coir shipment. If you haven’t already, arrange for your coir twine shipment. Soak the coir for 24 hours before stringing to help make tying an easier task. As the coir drys, it will constrict to prevent sliding on the cable.
  • Remove early hop shoots. Removal of early hop shoots is different than pruning in order to determine the correct training date. This first removal takes care of downy mildew shoots emerging from the crown as well as the hollow and more brittle shoots that typically emerge first. A later pruning will determine when to train the bines up the coir.

At this time, weeds have already emerged so the window for applying most pre-emergent herbicides has passed. Those should be applied in January or February when the plants are completely dormant. Based on the weeds spotted yesterday, careful spot spraying (on the rare occasion when it’s not windy) or hand pulling will suffice.

Weeds and early shoots emerge as weather warms at the East Campus Hop Yard on February 27, 2018.

Weeds and early shoots emerge as weather warms at the East Campus Hop Yard on February 27, 2018.

UPCOMING EVENTS

  • Hops Production Workshop, hosted by Midwest Hop ProducersSaturday, March 10, 2018, 8 am – 5 pm

    Southeast Community College, 537 Main Street, Plattsmouth, NE 68048. 

    For more information and to register, visit here.

 

  • Weed & Fertility Management Workshop

Friday, April 6, 4-6 pm
Plant Science Hall Room 199
Cost: Free
This workshop will include educational information on managing hop yard weeds, soil and plant fertility, and hands-on development of a fertility plan for hop production. A campus hop yard tour will be held following presentations, weather permitting. For questions or to register, please email katie.kreuser@unl.edu.

SAVE THE DATES

This summer, I’m partnering with the Nebraska Hop Growers Association, and a few of our state’s hop growers to host informal tours, educational sessions, and opportunities to network. These events will be free. In the case of meals being available, attendees will be responsible.

  • June Hop Yard TourSaturday, June 2, Homestead Hops, Utica, NE, Hop Yard Tour, Growing season update, light breakfast provided.
  • July Hop Yard TourSaturday, July 14, Kearney, Hop Yard Tour, Pest & Disease Update, lunch and meet the brewer at Thunderhead Brewing Company.
  • August Hop Yard TourTBD – Stay Tuned!

 

  • Introductory Hop Workshop

Friday, June 8, 4-6:30 pm
Plant Science Hall Room 199
Cost: $10
This workshop will provide information on the cost of hop production, trellis design and set up, and basic information on hop agronomics, harvest, and post-harvest processing. A local brewer will be on hand to discuss what they are looking for in locally produced hops for their beers. Check back soon for registration details. Please email katie.kreuser@unl.edu with questions.

Step 1. Marketing your hops

Pursuing hop production is a hot topic. Craft beer enthusiasts want more than just craft beer made locally. They seek out regional craft beer made with locally-grown ingredients. And while our climate, latitude, and soils make growing hops conducive, it’s not an easy undertaking. One of the most challenging parts about hops production doesn’t even involve the physical growing part of production. It’s the marketing aspect. It’s befriending and building relationships with brewers, giving away or testing out your hops in the first one or two years, and proving that you know your product and can produce a high quality product for their brewing needs. It’s a serious part of hop production that I’d encourage you to consider before putting any plants in the ground.

This past Saturday, the Nebraska Hop Growers Association (NHGA) held their annual meeting at Blue Blood Brewing Company in Lincoln, Nebraska. Their owner and founder, and member of the NHGA board of directors, Brian Podwinski spoke from a brewer’s perspective on working with regional hop growers and purchasing local hops.

As a brewer, he tries to incorporate as many locally sources ingredients as he can. What he prioritizes in making ingredient purchases is the quality and quantity of the product. With the majority of U.S. hop production happening in the Pacific Northwest, and more recently in Michigan, the scale of production has allowed them to produce high quality hops at lower costs. However, Nebraska brewers, like Brian, understand that Nebraska grown hops come at a premium (within reason), and are willing to work with growers because their customers like Nebraska-grown hops in their beer.

For brewers, quality doesn’t necessarily mean pelleted hops, though that is what the majority of brewers prefer to use in the brewing process. (One of the main reasons for preferring pelleted hops over whole cone is because the alpha acids in pelleted hops can be fully isomerized in the boil. It essentially utilizes the entire hop.) Quality means keeping spray records and following label instructions carefully to prevent residues in brewers’ beers. Quality means taking the necessary efforts to maintain color and prevent disease presence on or in the cones as the mature and ready for harvest. Quality is properly drying the cones to the correct moisture content and storing them in mylar bags to prevent any light of moisture from entering and causing degradation and mold. Quality is reaching the alpha and beta acid target levels and storing hops at the proper Hop Storage Index (HSI). (HSI is a value given when cone samples are submitted for alpha and beta acid testing.)

Once you believe you’ve taken the correct steps in producing quality hops, Brian encourages growers to reach out to him about doing test batches in his pilot system. Ideally, you brew with your own hops and know exactly what you’re selling. Not all growers and brewers have a small brewing system, but brewers do expect you to know your own product. Learn what your hops should smell like and taste like in beer. The more you know your product, the easier it is to sell that said product.

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As we amp up for the 2018 growing season, we have a few workshops coming up and some other exciting events so stay tuned for more details.

  1. Weed Management & Fertility Workshop. Friday, April 6, 2018, 4-6:00 pm. East Campus, Plant Science Hall Room 199. Topics to be covered include management of weeds in your hop yard, fertility of hops, and how to develop a fertility plan for your yard. Email katie.kreuser@unl.edu or call 402-472-3036 to register.
  2. Introduction to Hop Production Workshop. Friday, June 8, 2018, 4-6:30 pm. East Campus, Plant Science Hall Room 199. Topics to be covered include hop production costs, trellis design and set up,  and basic information on hop agronomics, harvest, and post-harvest processing. We’re excited to have a local brewer join us to share more of their perspective on working with local hop producers. Registration details will follow.

Stay tuned for First Saturday Hop Yard tours! UNL Hops will be partnering with the Nebraska Hop Growers Association to tour a few hops yards across the state this summer. We will incorporate hands on scouting and integrated pest management with these events. Plan to join us bright and early on a few Saturday mornings over coffee, light breakfast and hop yard tours. I’d like to plan to have at least one event in the central part of Nebraska. Tentative dates: May 5, June 2, and July 14 (postponed later due to July 4 holiday). If you are a grower and interested in hosting, please contact Katie at katie.kreuser@unl.edu or 402-472-3036. The only obligation is allowing visitors in your hop yard. These events will be limited to 20 people. 

Nebraska Grower and Brewer Conference & More

January has been a whirlwind!

First of all, thank you for all those that attended the 2nd annual Nebraska Grower and Brewer Conference & Trade Show. We had 212 total attendees, including speakers and vendors, some excellent presentations and opportunities to network and learn from one another. I’ve heard great feedback from many, however, if you have not taken the survey yet, please do so here.

A few comments I’d like to reiterate from the conference:

Community – Relationships move this industry forward. As hop growers, other growers are not your competition. Estimates for acreage to meet the state and region’s hop demand are far from the current acreage. Success isn’t going to come from every man working on his own. Knowledge in the industry should be shared, and aspects of hop production and craft brewing should be combined.

Quality – More specifically, with demand for the hop end product being primarily pelleted hops, forming cooperatives that provide pelleting services for regional growers reduces heavy up front costs for equipment that isn’t heavily used year-round and offers flexibility for participants. Sharing harvesting and other equipment if timing works are also options.

As a state, our focus should be to produce consistent, high quality hops that brewers can count on for their beers. Moving forward, the Nebraska Hop Growers Association and the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild, along with the University, will work together to provide information on brewer expectations in the form of guidelines to better meet this goal of consistent hop quality. This would increase your marketing efforts as growers backed by verified organizations. An excellent example that could serve as a resource in the meantime is here.

I am excited for the progress in the industry. You as growers have put much sweat, tears and hard work into it this far. Let’s keep going! Our plants will be emerging from the ground soon. I’ll be sharing updates here regularly as we plan and announce workshops and trainings, watch plants progress throughout the season, and prepare for another delicious harvest.

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Last week I had the opportunity to attend the American Hop Convention. The panel discussions, networking, educational and market report sessions were invaluable listen to and observe.

The hops market, as with most agriculture crops, is cyclical, and with recent years predictions in significant craft beer growth, acreage has expanded significantly in the Pacific Northwest, 19% in 2017to be exact. In 2017, however, craft beer is still growing but at a slower than predicted pace, cuing hop storage build up at many of the hop merchants in the PNW. A smaller than predicted shortage in Europe was reported after rains before harvest helped to recover some of the anticipated hop shortage, reducing as much need from the USA for hops. Production increased 19.8% in total million pounds between 2016 and 2017, bringing 2017’s total to 106.2 MM pounds.

How does this effect hop growers in Nebraska? Surpluses of varieties like cascade in hop merchants warehouses allow them to lower prices significantly to ranges that aren’t feasible for growers on a small scale. Unless a brewer specifically wants Nebraska-grown cascade (thinking terroir here), selling cascade as whole cone or pelleted hops will be cost prohibitive. This is bad news for Nebraska growers, many of which have cascade on hand.

This highlights the dire importance of beginning with marketing as you pursue hop growing, and the risk growers take with swings in the market. Speaking specifically with brewers, building relationships with them, and proving you can produce a quality hop product must all happen before any purchases are made. If you want a piece of the market, a quality product is how to compete.

Now, it’s not all doom and gloom. Exciting things happening in the industry include Michigan intending to become the next state member of the USA Hop Growers Association this year. Outside of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, they’ll be the 4th member, having only begun in the industry in 2007-2008. Today, the state has over 800 (and growing) acres of hops, a vibrant state Growers Association, and most recently had a farm (Hop Head Farms) come in 4th place in the cascade cup, a hop quality competition organized by the Hop Quality Group.

Nebraska represented at the conference, which is a great way to make the industry aware of areas outside of the traditional growing region. We can share what’s happening in the state, learn best practices and new innovations to apply at home, and build connections that lead to future collaborations.

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I will continue to monitor the market and communicate current events. We have a weeding and fertility workshop planned for late March/early February that we’ll announce in the next couple of weeks. We will again host an introductory hop production workshop, and two harvest workshops in August – one in Lincoln and one in Scottsbluff.

The Nebraska Hop Growers Association 2018 annual meeting will be held on Saturday, February 10th, 1-4 pm at Blue Blood Brewing Company, 925 Robbers Cave Rd, Lincoln, NE 68502. Voting members (commercial growers) should be present from 1-3 pm. All members will meet following at 3 pm on. The focus of the member meeting will be hop quality through post-harvest processing, and desired hop quality for brewers. Interested in joining? Visit their website here. I hope to see you there.

If Extension can be of help to you, reach out to katie.kreuser@unl.edu or call 402-472-3036. Cheers to the 2018 growing season!

-Katie