May 14, 2010

I know I promised many of you that we would make the presentations public from our March 26th Hops Conference: Hopping To It.  Please allow me to assure you that that is still our intention, and it is still in the works.  I won’t bore you with the details (processing large video files, etc.), but we hope to have it available soon.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Gatineau, QC for a hops workshop, hosted by our friends at CREDETAO.    The workshop was presented by Julien Venne, an agronomist from the CREDETAO team, and Dr. Ron Godin, an agronomist from Colorado State University who has been working with hops for the last ten years or so.  Check out the section on “Links to Hops Articles” on our Hops page to a hops trellising and budget presentation that Edward Page did with Ron a few years ago.

In Quebec, they might be a bit ahead of us in terms of local beer…  They’ve already got a few completely local beers like La Rur’ale, and they have had some really exciting developments on the malthouse front too.  Check out Malt de Maltbroue, a farm that malts their own barley.  (Sorry, in French…)

The CREDETAO team is doing a variety trial similar to what we will be doing in Alburgh.  They planted their rhizomes last year, and are trialing 10 varieties: Cascade, Brewer’s Gold, Northern Brewer, Hallertau, Kent Golding, Willamette, Mt. Hood, Nugget, Tettnanger, and Hersbrucker.  Since they are conducting research in a similar climate to ours, and are looking at some of the same varieties, the knowledge and insight that they gather will be invaluable.  As many of you already know, most of the hops production in the US is in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, and cultivated in large monocultures under dry conditions, something that we don’t really have here in the Northeast.  We are expecting different disease patterns here due to our high humidity and rainfall, and probably fewer of the hop specific pests.  For example, in Quebec, they have seen problems with corn borers – not a pest that normally threatens hopyards in the Pacific Northwest, but a common pest that invades the corn fields in our region.  This little guy apparently likes hops too.  Iowa State has some good pictures of the European corn borer, so you’ll know what to look for.  As of yet, the corn borer hasn’t been observed to limit production to any large extent, but the potential is there…forewarned is forearmed.  Keep your eyes peeled!  In the Quebec variety trial, they’ve also had powdery mildew (on Tettnanger, Hallertau, and Hersbrucker), what they suspect was downy mildew (the worst hit were Mt. Hood, Tettnanger, Hallertau, and Northern Brewer, the first two which are supposed to be moderately resistant to downy mildew), aphids, mites, and hops looper.

Some counsel that the Quebec team gave, which is worth mentioning:

  • Make sure you have all the right equipment before setting out.  Check out our video on the important materials that you’ll need for a hopyard, featuring Roger Rainville of Borderview Research Farm, where much of our research is hosted.  As you will see, Alburgh is a windy place, so we’ve subtitled the last bit of the video where you can’t hear Roger very well.
  • Wait until the field is completely dry before working it up.
  • Choose a site with deep soil.  It’s pretty hard to bury posts in bedrock, and you want to be able to go at least 3 feet down.
  • If it’s a warm or early spring, plant directly in the soil, but if you have a greenhouse, it’s a bit of a time saver to transplant the rhizomes from pots and train them all in one go.
  • It will take one or two days per acre with a minimum of 4 people to lay out the sisal, and it’s best to anchor as you tie, otherwise you’ll be chasing after strings that are blowing in the wind.
  • Lay out your irrigation lines as soon as possible.

And allow me to add one more: Soil test!!!  As the saying goes: don’t guess, soil test.  Proper soil health and nutrition is invaluable to maximizing yields and fending off pest and disease pressure.  Look forward to the following post on how to take and read a soil test.

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