Gearing Up for Training

Hops making their spring debut at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, VT on April 29, 2016.

Our hop bines have finally made an appearance and we are now gearing up for training.

Hops in the Northeast should be trained as early as possible. Keep in mind that it takes about 30 days after crowning for plants to be ready to train, so if you haven’t crowned by now, skip it! In time, our team hopes to identify more precise times to crown and train that are applicable to our region.

Crowning and training dates vary substantially by variety. Aroma hop varieties tend to grow slower than alpha varieties. Therefore, aroma varieties should be trained first and early. Hop farmers in the Pacific Northwest have farm- and variety-specific training dates. Unfortunately, the dates used by farmers out west are way too early for our short growing season (we’d train then if we could!), but they might give use some insight into the relationships between varieties.

Below are typical training dates for Washington:

  •     Cascade, Centennial: May 1-5
  •     Nugget, Chinook: May 8-12
  •     Galena: May 17-21

Last year at Borderview Farm in Alburgh, Vermont, we trained our hops (3 to 4 bines per string) during the week of May 20.

With hop production, we pay attention to the summer solstice. In general, the vegetative part of the season occurs before June 21 — this is the period where hop plants will grow quickly, putting on a large amount of biomass in a short period of time. The reproductive growth phase occurs from June 21 until harvest — this is when we’ll see the production of burrs which develop into flowers and then cones. Hop plants are triggered to produce burrs based on a combination of day length, the number of nodes present, temperature, and the environment. Each variety has different sensitivity to day length (photoperiod).

Our training dates last year gave plants 33 days of vegetative growth to reach the top of the trellis and have enough vegetation and developed side arms for cone development. That means plants needed to grow 6” per day, to reach the top of the 192” trellis by June 21. Many did make it by then, but we wish we had been able to train earlier so that all could have made it.

Farms in the Northeast can find the best dates to crown and train hop varieties by documenting when you crowned and trained each variety. Carefully note the day that each variety flowered, and the harvest date. Train Cascade first and as early as possible. Fit in other varieties based on the date they produce burrs on your farm in relation to each other. And, when in doubt, train as early as possible!

Until next time, keep calm and hop on.

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