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What's Hoppening: Musings from the Hopyard!

Hop Harvesting Field Day, September 11, 2015

Posted: September 1st, 2015 by hoppenin

2014 harvest at Borderview Research Farm.

2014 harvest at Borderview Research Farm.

Please join us for a informal Hop Harvesting Field Day!

We will hold this informal event on Friday, September 11, 2015 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Borderview Research Farm, 146 Line Road, Alburgh, Vermont.

Come learn about and share your experiences with harvesting and drying hops.  We will demonstrate how to test dry matter of your hops, show harvesting and drying equipment, and share our most recent research findings on hops.  Come with questions for discussion!

We will be using a hops harvester from hopsharvester.com.

There is no cost for this event, but please R.S.V.P. by Wednesday, September 9, by emailing susan.brouillette@uvm.edu.  Please provide full name, email address, phone number, and how many will be attending.

Hop Cone Disease Symptoms

Posted: August 24th, 2015 by hoppenin

Dark brown bracts are a symptom of hop downy mildew.

Dark brown bracts are a symptom of hop downy mildew.

Why are my hop cones black?

Harvest is approaching quickly and for some may be well underway! This season’s wet conditions have resulted in high disease pressure on the hop plants. These diseases are now starting to show up on the cones of the plant. At this time, we have identified primary fungi downy mildew and Alternaria on cones from the UVM hop yard. Photos and description of the symptoms are below.

At this point it is unclear what, if any, yield or quality damage will result from disease infested cones. For now, we can say that downy mildew and Alternaria are causing aesthetic damage to the cones that are infected.

What should you do?

Hop cone quality will decrease the longer hop bines with downy mildew are left out in the yard because it quickly dries out the cones. If you are starting to see downy mildew damage on your cones, you may consider harvesting early to reduce continued infection and overall quality loss.

If a plant has cones that are completely black, they likely have very poor quality and are not worth harvesting. Remove the severely infected plant material from the hop yard. For further reading and pictures please see “Field Guide for Integrated Pest Management in Hops” (Gent et al. 2009).

Reddish-brown brushing is a symptom of alternaria. Photo credit: S. J. Pethybridge

Reddish-brown brushing is a symptom of Alternaria. Photo: Gent et. al. 2009.






Getting Ready for Harvest: Smell, Touch, Hear, & Measure

Posted: August 18th, 2015 by hoppenin

Timing is critical to harvesting high quality Northeastern hops, as is paying close attention to drying, packaging, and storing the harvest.

Our hops at the Alburgh research farm are not quite ready to harvest yet. We predict that the harvest of early maturing varieties will begin at the end of next week (the week of August 24, 2015). We use dry matter content to make the final decision on harvest timing, but there are flavor-related strategies that are quick and can be a good place to start.

Alpha acids develop before beta acids in hop cones. Studies of Northeastern hops indicate that we should allow cone chemistry to develop further than has been traditionally recommended in order to let these beta acids develop. This means leaving hops on the bine for a slightly longer period of time when possible.

At this time of year, it is important to walk through your hop yard to evaluate hops. Do a sensory test that includes smell, touch, and sound. Hops that are not quite ready smell “green” like hay or grass, while over-ripe hops smell like onions, sulfur, and garlic. In general, you should be able to smell hops from a couple feet away from a plant when they are ready. One Pacific Northwestern grower said he knows when his hops are ready because a cone will sound like a baby rattle when shaken. This goes to show that every region and every farm has their own group of specific sensory characteristics to determine hop readiness. If you have a microscope, you can also take a look at the lupulin glands. Lupulin glands that are ready should be shiny, golden, and have an acorn shape.

Getting ready to pop some hops in the dehydrator.

Getting ready to pop some hops in the dehydrator.

Once you think that your hops are ready, it is time to measure hop cone dry matter content. Dry matter is the deciding factor that we use to determine when hops are ready to be harvested. We harvest at 23% to 27% dry matter. It is known that different varieties can have different optimal harvest dry matters within (or just outside) this range. We highly recommend taking notes on your harvest dry matter and how your crop turns out so that you can make small changes if need be.

To test dry matter: Take a 50 gram sample of wet cones from individual varieties. Make sure that a representative sample is taken from the yard at 10 to 12 feet above the ground. Weigh each wet cone sample. Place cones in a food dehydrator at medium heat or in a microwave. When you think they are dry, take a cone out. Split it open. Is it still wet? Weigh the dry cones and calculate dry matter or moisture content. Our UVM Extension Hop Harvest Moisture Calculator will calculate dry matter for you from wet and dry weights. See our website for more information on dry matter calculation, including our Hops Harvest Moisture Determination factsheet.

Note: in hot, dry conditions, cones can mature and dry very quickly. In hot weather, dry matter levels can change rapidly, so pay close attention over these warm summer days! For an academic journal on hop maturation, see “The Development of brewing quality characteristics in hops during maturation,” by M. Murphey and G. Probasco, (1996) Tech. Qrtly. Master Brewers Assoc. of the Americas, 33(3) 149-159.

If you are noticing black or browning cones, stay tuned for our next blog post on cone diseases.

Hops Production course at VTC

Posted: August 3rd, 2015 by hoppenin

Vermont Technical College asked if we would please share the information on a Hops course they are offering on August 10-11, 2015.  Following is the course information, as well as their contact information.

Hops Production. August 10-11, 2015. $200.

Description: Two day introductory course in small scale hop farming in the Northeast. Day one will be in the classroom learning hop biology, diseases, and brewing characteristics. Day two will be at Addison Hop Farm in Addison, VT to explore a functioning hopyard during the harvest season. http://www.vtc.edu/hops-production

Thank you for your time! Look forward to hearing from you.hopplantwithhops


Rachel Arsenault  |  Marketing & Administrative Assistant

Institute for Applied Agriculture & Food Systems

802.370.9898  |   802.728.1677  |   RArsenault@vtc.edu

PO Box 500 | Randolph Center, VT 05061



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Biopesticides: A Natural Alternative

Posted: July 30th, 2015 by hoppenin

Gram stain of Bacillus thuringiensis under 1000 X magnification. Image credit: Dr. Sahay, Wikimedia Commons

Biological pesticides, or biopesticides, are pest management tools derived from animals, plants, bacteria, and/or naturally occurring minerals. Many common biopesticides uses microorganisms like entomopathogenic bacteria, fungi, nematodes or viruses as their active ingredients. The most widely used microbial pesticides are derived from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. Each strain of this soil bacterium produces a different mix of toxic crystalline proteins; as a result their activity is restricted to certain groups of insects. For example, a relatively new bioinsecticide derived from Bacillus thuringiensis galleriae (Btg), is only toxic to certain beetles, including Japanese beetle adults and larvae!

According to the EPA, biopesticides are generally less toxic than conventional pesticides, often only affect target pests (and closely related organisms), are usually effective at low concentrations and tend to decompose quickly reducing exposures and potentially avoiding the pollution problems associated with conventional pesticides. Biopesticides have long been used as an effective pest management strategy for organic crop production. However, their use has increasingly been recommended as part of Integrated Pest Management programs to reduce the use of conventional pesticides while maintaining high yields.

Biopesticides are coming on the market at breakneck pace; because of this, little is known about their efficacy, particularly on hops. At our hopyard, we are currently evaluating several biofungicides to determine their efficacy at managing downy mildew in hops, and we have been experimenting with bioherbicides for weed management.

As with all pesticide use, carefully follow all label directions to use biopesticides safely and effectively. A note of caution for certified organic growers: even though biopesticides are derived from natural sources does not mean that all are approved for use in organic production. Always check with your certifier before adopting new practices or using new materials.

With temperatures in the 90s this week, keep up the irrigation and be on the lookout for two-spotted spider mites. And remember, keep calm and hop on…

Come On Over to Our Hopyard, 7/23

Posted: July 20th, 2015 by hoppenin

Borderview Research Farm

Borderview Research Farm

Join us this Thursday, July 23, 2015 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for our annual Crops and Soils Field Day at the Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh.

The day will include tour stops to our hopyard where we will discuss critical hop insect and disease pests and our research–including new trials on bio fungicides–to discover effective management strategies for our region.

You will be able to look at hop equipment, including driers, balers, and harvesters. See our trellis and irrigation systems and learn about fertigating. The afternoon will also include a research update on downy mildew and weed management.

Registration, which includes lunch, is $10 for farmers; $25 for others. To register online and for more information, visit https://www.regonline.com/cropsfieldday.

3 Things that Matter in Pest Scouting: Location, Location, Location

Posted: June 16th, 2015 by hoppenin

Hop aphids.

Hop aphids.

“There are three things that matter in property: location, location, location.” We have found that location also matters in growing hops, particularly this spring. Southern Vermont has been exceptionally dry for long periods, while northern parts of our region have been soggy, to say the least.

The cool, wet conditions that we’ve been experiencing in the north typically favor hop aphids, however, we haven’t been seeing many aphids in Vermont hopyards this season. Perhaps they have been slow to move from their alternate host, woody plants in the genus Prunus (cherries, other stone fruits, etc.). Unfortunately, these conditions are quite favorable for downy mildew,  so diligent downy mildew management has been a must.

Meanwhile, the relative warmth in southern portions of our region, combined with the early arrival of potato leafhoppers this year, means we are starting to see second generation leafhopper nymphs scuttling across the undersides of hop leaves. This also helps explain the early appearance of two-spotted spider mites as well as spider mite destroyers, their arch nemesis (and our friend). The aptly named spider mite destroyers (ladybugs that specialize on spider mites) can be very helpful when managing spider mites as the season progresses.

Japanese Beetle

Japanese Beetle.

The old saying “knee-high by the 4th of July” may be more commonly used when talking about corn, but be on the lookout for our most patriotic of pests: Japanese beetles. Come July 4th, some of us begin to feel like we are knee-high in Japanese beetles.

Just remember, keep calm and hop on…

Hop Update: June 9, 2015

Posted: June 9th, 2015 by hoppenin


Irrigation system at Borderview Hopyard

Irrigation system at Borderview Hopyard

At this time, our hops in Alburgh are growing quite quickly, up to 15-25 cm a day! During this period of vegetative growth up the strings, it is important to keep up good management practices. Ours include fertilizing, irrigating, weeding, spraying bio-fungicides, and scouting for insects and downy mildew. Our hops are currently being fertilized through the irrigation system–a process known as fertigation. Continuing these tasks is important to ensure that the hops are ready for the switch to their reproductive growth stage, which will begin around June 21st in response to the shortening hours of daylight. Until then, keeping up management practices with the growth of the hops will be keeping us busy.

Happy growing!

Potato Leafhoppers Have Arrived

Posted: June 2nd, 2015 by hoppenin

First, second, and third instar potato leafhopper nymphs.

First, second, and third instar potato leafhopper nymphs.

Adult female potato leafhoppers (Empoasca fabae) arrived to the Borderview research farm in Alburgh between May 23 and May 26. To identify them, stick your hand in a hop plant and ruffle it around–you may see light colored potato leafhoppers fly out. Whether you have seen potato leafhopper yet or not, it is time to start scouting your hop yard for arthropod pests.

The potato leafhopper  is a migratory insect pest. The 2014 potato leafhopper population was scarce and did not peak until the end of July. In previous years, potato leafhopper arrived around June 1st and the population peaked earlier (late June to early July) which we can expect in 2015. Our potato leafhopper factsheet has more information on biology and symptoms.

Research we conducted last year showed that 3 adult potato leafhoppers per leaf reduced first year hop photosynthesis. We know this is a pest of concern, but we do not have an economic threshold for this pest on hops. The majority of (organic and non-organic) pesticides labeled for use against potato leafhopper are broad-spectrum products.

Hopperburn: visual V-shaped chlorosis injury caused by potato leafhopper.

Hopperburn: visual V-shaped chlorosis injury caused by potato leafhopper.

Broad-spectrum pesticides not only kill the target pests but also natural enemy arthropods. Therefore, we discourage the use of these broad-spectrum pesticides on hops due to the elevated risk of two-spotted spider mite outbreak. However, we have found that potato leafhoppers prefer to feed on red clover planted in the drive rows than on hop plants. This suggests that planting red clover in drive rows as a “trap crop” may reduce the number of leafhoppers on hop plants. If you give this a try, let us know!

Training Days for Hops

Posted: May 29th, 2015 by hoppenin

In commercial hop yards, different cultivars are trained on specific dates in the spring.  Depending on whether a cultivar matures early, mid-season, or late, there is typically a particular range of days for those plants to start their upward growth. Getting the bines off the ground is also important for managing downy mildew.

Training hops at Borderview Research Farm.

Training hops at Borderview Research Farm.

Training dates have not been formally identified for the Northeast region. We trained our hops at the Borderview Research Farm in Alburg this week (Tuesday, 5/26) while some other hop growers reported that they completed their training on 5/19.

We recommend that you make your own observations of hop maturity and write down when you trained each hop cultivar (down the road, we hope to have funds to conduct in-depth research on this important topic).

When training, each string should have 3 or 4 bines. The bines should be trained clockwise as the plants grow towards the sun over the course of each day, winding themselves up the string.

Remember that hop plants can grow 1 foot per day–that’s 6 inches before lunch! Because some varieties mature a  little slower than others, our crew will make another sweep around the hop yard to train any later maturing plants in about a week.

At this time of year, it is also critical to irrigate and fertilize. More on that topic coming soon. Until then, stay calm and hop on.

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