After the conference there is a Post Conference Happy Hour for an extra fee. The Fall Conference also happens to coincide with a Home Brew Reviewhosted by The Colgate Inn in Hamilton, NY. Overall, it should be a good show.
Chris Callahan was recently hired as the Agricultural Engineer for UVM Extension and is operating out of the Rutland, VT office. He is a long time Crops and Soils fav, and has worked on numerous projects with us, including the hops harvester, oast, and various oilseed projects. He and Lucy Carrasco, our Assistant Webmaster (and all around superhero) came up with a nifty Hops Moisture Calculator that we thought you might find useful. (You can even use it on your smartphone!) You can also download it in Excel.
In the Northeast, hop harvest generally begins in mid-August and continues through mid-September. Harvest date is primarily dependent on the hop variety. However weather can delay or hasten when a harvest will occur. Another factor that can influence harvest date is pest issues, including heavy spider mite and downy mildew infestations. In the major hop growing regions, harvest is generally targeted when cones reach approximately 23% dry matter.
Determining hop dry matter in a Koster Moisture Tester at left, and with a food dehydrator at right.
To determine your hops target dry matter, randomly sample 5 to 10 sidearms of the same variety from throughout the hopyard. Samples should be taken from near the top of the trellis, approximately two feet below the trellis wire. The sample should reflect the state of your yard, and should be taken when there isn’t excess moisture in the hopyard, i.e. after the morning dew has dried, when it isn’t raining, etc. Pick the cones off of the sidearm into a bucket, and mix thoroughly before selecting a subsample of 100 to 150 cones.
Once you have your subsample you can begin the determination of dry matter. Weigh an empty container in grams. Weigh the freshly picked hops in the container, and record both weights. Dry the hops down to 0% moisture. This can be done one of several ways:
1.) Overnight in a food dehydrator at 140 – 150°F
2.) In a Koster Moisture Tester (commonly used to test forage moisture)
3.) In a microwave or oven, being sure to remove the sample every minute or less to prevent scorching.
Using a food dehydrator will allow the cones to dry to 0% moisture overnight. However, the Koster tester and microwave methods require constant monitoring as they will dry the cones relatively quickly. Once the sample has reached a stable weight, the hops are at 0% moisture. Weigh the dry hops and record the weight in grams. To calculate the percent dry matter, use the following equation:
Harvesting too early can reduce the yield of your hopyard and can also have an effect on next year’s yield. This is especially true for new hopyards, early maturing varieties, or varieties with low vigor, as it disrupts the carbohydrate partitioning into the root system. Harvesting too early will also disrupt the flavor constituents of your hops as the alpha acids might not have reached peak levels. However, harvesting too late can also reduce brewing quality and aroma. Later harvested hops are at risk of accelerated oxidation in storage through the loss of volatile aroma compounds. Later harvested hops usually suffer from a shortened storageability, as do cones that have been damaged by diseases and/or pests. Be aware that cones that have been damaged by spider mites and other pests are prone to over-drying.
Having a good idea of the pest and predator insect populations in your hopyard will aid you in pest control decision-making. Scouting is an essential aspect of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), and will help you identify pertinent pest and pest predators. The UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Team has put together some resources to help you locate and identify pests and predators in your hopyard. For a detailed look at many hop pests and predators found in the Northeast, please click here.
Please click below to watch a YouTube video on how to scout a small-scale hopyard, and for highlights on what you might find therein.
Japanese beetles can be a significant economic pest in hops, so proper identification and management decision-making are important if you are going to avoid losses. Check out our article Japanese Beetles in Hops in the Northeast for more information on Japanese beetles and some control options.
NeHA will have virus indexed stock plants available on-site at the July 21st field day at Hop Meadow Farm in Union Springs, NY. Cascade, Newport, Willamette, Perle, Fuggle, and Liberty will be available at $5 per plant in trays of 12.
Stay tuned here for more details on upcoming events!
Downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora humuli, Miyabe and Takah., Wilson) was one of the major reasons for the decline of hops production in the Northeast over a hundred years ago. As many of you know, it is still a significant issue here, as well as in yards in the major hop growing areas of the United States and Europe. While P. humuli is closely related to the downy mildew that you can find on your watermelons, cucumbers, and zucchinis, the organism does not cross infect, meaning that you don’t have to pull out your squashes to spare your hops, or vice versa. Downy mildew can cause the complete loss of marketable yield, and even hill death in sensitive hop varieties. It is a very serious hindrance to successful hops production, but diligent integrated pest management (IPM) can help you manage the disease in your hopyard. Click here for more information on downy mildew and for best management practices concerning the disease.
You should be scouting in your hopyard at least once a week by this time of year, keeping an eye out for disease, pests, and any nutrient deficiencies. As you scout for insects in your hopyard, you are likely to find a thriving community. Many of the insects that you find are not a threat to your yields or to hops quality, but there are a few that are noteworthy. Last year we saw significant damage from potato leafhoppers, those pale green, wedge-shaped insects. They blow in from the south every year, arriving around the end of May, beginning of June. Scott Lewins, our resident entomologist and all around good guy, has been out scouting yards all over Vermont, and he reports that they are not only here, but that they are reproducing. You should be scouting your yard to see if they are above the threshold level of two leafhoppers per leaf, and if they are, we advise chemical intervention. For Scott’s full scouting report, please click here.
With many thanks to our funders at the Vermont Agricultural Innovation Center and the United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development. These funds were secured through the efforts of Senator Patrick Leahy.
Most of Vermont got hit by a pretty hard frost last weekend, and we’ve received numerous calls about what to do about frosted hops. In our two-year-old variety trial, Nugget in particular got a good wallop, whether that was because it isn’t as frost-tolerant as some of the varieties or because it was a little taller then the others is unknown. Things looked pretty grim across the whole yard the morning after the frost, but a few days later, it seems like most of the plants have recovered. For the varieties that were already a couple of feet tall, the frosted tips are looking brown and wilted like over-cooked asparagus.
What to do? Well, the tips of those shoots are good and dead, and they won’t continue to grow up. With the terminal buds dead, some of them are even starting to send out sidearms, which some reports say can take over as the growing point, but with reduced growth and yields as a result. In our hopyard, we’ve clipped back the shoots where the frost has nipped the tip, and the hop crown has already sent out new, undamaged growth.
For those who have a newly-planted hopyard, or have weaker crowns where only one or two shoots have emerged, I would suggest caution in trimming back the hills too much. The hop crown might be too weak to push more growth. By not trimming back the growth that has had its growing point nipped, you might lose your yield, but hopefully you won’t lose the entire hill.
While you are out in the yard, keep a sharp eye out for downy mildew spikes!
Downy mildew spike
This is downy mildew making itself known: note the short internodes with down-curled leaves, particularly in comparison with the longer, leggy growth you see in the picture above. If you see these spikes, get ‘em out of your yard! Other than that, we don’t really counsel removing the first flush of growth in the Northeast. In the Pacific Northwest, producers often prune the first growth, but here, our growing season is a bit shorter, and barring new data, we advise against pruning.