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Hop Pest – Eastern Comma

While out in the hopyard this week, we stumbled upon this little guy and his friends on the underside of some leaves, chowing down on a fine looking row of Cascade.

Eastern comma munching in the hopyard.

While spikey and rather exciting looking with a remarkable set of eyebrows, the Eastern comma (Polygonia comma) is generally perceived as a pest with no economic importance.  However, this might be because the Pacific Northwest, where most of the hops industry takes root, is outside of the Eastern comma’s habitat range.   The ones in our yard seem to munch at quite a clip, it is easy to imagine them multiplying and making a serious dent.  Their populations are knocked back by the pesticides we use for spider mites and leaf hoppers, but we have been practicing the ol’ fail-safe organic pest-control method: whenever we see ’em, we squish ’em.

The eggs are green with ridges and can often be found stacked one on top of another.

Eastern comma eggs (click on image to enlarge)

The body color of the larvae is highly variable, a quick Google Image search will reveal a lot of diversity.

Polygonia comma

The adult butterfly is orange and black, but varies in color depending on the time of the year.  It can be identified by the silvery comma on the middle of the hind wing.

Note silvery comma

In the past, this pest has been dubbed the “Hop Merchant“.  Growers in the early 1900s would base their projections for the year’s prices on the degree of the chrysalis’s golden luster.

University of Florida Extension has a great fact sheet about the Eastern comma, and we encourage you to look through it.

Hop Fertility Management in the Northeast

The increasing acreage of hops in the Northeast has prompted the need for fertility guidelines for this new and emerging crop. Unfortunately there has been no regional data generated to determine hop nutrient requirements for our soils and climate. Some basic fertility guidelines can be developed from research and information available from the Pacific Northwest (PNW). It is important to remember that these are just guidelines developed to help assist producers with maximizing hop yields until more local data can be generated for this crop. Read more…

Hops Recordkeeping Booklet

Greetings all,

The hops Extension teams in VT and NY have put together a “Hops Recordkeeping Booklet”. This booklet will give you a spot to write down pertinent hop information, including pests, fertilizers, irrigation, etc. It pays to keep good records and it will help you tract beneficial practices over time. We are also hoping we can all learn more about growing hops if we document what is going on in New England hopyards. If you want a booklet email us and we can send you a few in the mail.  Don’t forget to send your address so we know where to mail them.

Rhizome time!

We have received a lot of calls lately on when to plant hops and how to store them until they are ready for their permanent home.  Most of you who have ordered rhizomes to be planted this year will have already received them.  When you plant them depends a lot on how cold and wet your soil is.  In Vermont you can still go snowshoeing in places, while other folks are already out in the fields.  If there’s still frost in the ground, needless to say, it’s probably best to hold off for a bit.  If you can’t plant your rhizomes right away, you have a few options.  If you have the space, you can pot them and put them in a greenhouse or under a plastic tunnel.  This way, when you put them in the ground, the hops will already have a head start on the growing season.  This is definitely your best option.  When transplanting, be careful to not break off the growing tip, as it will set the hops back.  If you don’t have the space or resources to pot your rhizomes, you can keep them in a plastic bag in a cool environment.  They should be kept moist, but not wet.  To regulate the humidity, you can surround them with damp shredded paper towel, and spritz them every once in a while.

Your rhizomes or potted hops should be planted once the soil is warm and has dried out a bit.  If you know your soils are heavy and the soil is soggy, the rhizomes won’t be able to breathe and will drown.  Wait until the soil can be easily worked.  Now is the time to get a head start on making a weed-free bed and to add a healthy dose of compost to the planting site. Approximately a spade shovelful per hill is ideal, which comes to about two tons of compost per acre.  Rhizomes should be planted two to four per hill and covered with 0.25 – 1” of soil, with a bud pointing upward.  Water in short increments frequently.  A late hard frost can nip the growing points, which will set the plants back a bit, but shouldn’t kill them.  We heard a few reports of this last year with that late snow fall in mid-May, but folks still had a decent harvest.

Community Educator – NYS Hops Specialist Job Posting

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County, in conjunction with the Northeast Hop Alliance, is hiring a Community Educator – NYS Hops Specialist.

The CCE Educator will work with growers throughout New York State to re-establish commercial specialty hop production.

The CCE educator will:
• Provide growers with the knowledge and resources to produce high quality hop crops;
• Plan, market, promote, and lead Hops courses for interested growers;
• Be available during the growing season to field hop related phone calls and make personal visits to farms that request it;
• Establish resources within the state that have the ability to test and analyze the alpha and beta chemicals in the hop cones;
• Form strategic alliances with people interested in all aspects of hops production throughout NYS and the Northeast

Required Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree; At least 1 year of experience working with farmers doing field work, extension education and/or outreach; Interest in/familiarity with hops and/or brewing; effective written and verbal communication skills; organizational and time-management skills

Preferred Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in horticulture or horticulture related transcript; experience with, or knowledge of hops; coursework in soils, plant physiology, entomology, agricultural economics, education and communication.

The position is flexible and can be part time or full-time. There is funding available for one and a half to two years through a NYS Specialty Crops Grant. The position may include a full New York State benefits package – health/dental insurance, retirement, and vacation. The position may require some night and weekend work.

To apply, please send resume, cover letter, and contact information for three references to: contact@MadisonCountyAgriculture.com

Applications will be accepted until noon on 3/21/2011.

Cornell Cooperative Extension is an equal opportunity employer.

2011 Winter Hops Conference

Back by popular demand, UVM Extension’s Winter Hops Conference will be held at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT on February 18th, 2011 from 10 am – 3:30 pm.  The 2nd Annual Winter Hops Conference will feature Dr. John Henning, a research plant geneticist for the USDA-ARS Hop Breeding and Genetics program and Oregon State University.  He will discuss strategies for achieving high quality hop production as well as the challenges and opportunities presented by a low-trellis system.  Further topics include hopyard trellis construction, the history of hops in Vermont, and a Brewer’s Panel made up of local brewers.  Cost of registration: $30 for members of the Northeast Hop Alliance, $40 for non-members.  Lunch included.  Please click on the links for further details.  Please RSVP by February 11th to UVM Extension at (802) 524-6501, or email me.  If you require accommodations to participate in this program, please let us know by February 11th so that we might assist you.

Rhizome bulk order

Hi All,

The Northeast Hop Alliance is organizing a bulk rhizome order.  (You should really join the NeHA…)  The deadline is January 14th.  Prices reflect the current number of orders placed, and does not include shipping and handling, which will depend on order size and supplier. 

Download the .pdf hop rhizome order form.

Download the .doc hop rhizome order form.

If we can order in lots of 1000, the price drops significantly, so tell all your friends.  To expedite the process, email the Word order form to the email at the bottom of the form, or mail the printed copy to the address on the form.  Final price quotes for the combined order will be available on January 23, and invoiced by January 30.  Payment is due upon receipt of the invoice.  ORDERS PLACED AFTER JANUARY 14TH WILL NOT BE HONORED.  Please reply ASAP.

Ordering supplies for next year’s hopyard

Greetings folks!

The Northeast Hops Alliance is organizing a cooperative purchase for supplies for next year’s hopyard. Of particular note is the coir twine pricing. If they can get enough orders to purchase 75 bales of coir, at 3400 strings each, then it will only be $300/bale. They might not be able to organize cooperative purchases every year, so plan ahead! You can find the details at the Northeast Hop Alliance website. Scroll to the bottom of the page and download the Cooperative Purchasing Supply Interest Survey.  Please don’t wait, it can take a couple of months for the bales to get here from Sri Lanka by freighter, and we want to get the order in soon!

The end of organic hop production?

Heather, Roger (who is hosting the majority of our hops research), and I just returned from a trip to the Yakima Valley in Washington, a trip whose purpose was to connect with hop growers and researchers from all over the country. Many fascinating things were seen and learned while we were there, tales of which I shall regale you with in the months to come. Of particular interest at this point in time was the acquaintance formed with Patrick Smith and his brother Kevin, of Loftus Ranches. Patrick is the Vice President of the American Organic Hop Grower Association.

I don’t know if you’ve heard the latest buzz about the USDA National Organic Standards Board and organic hops? The long and short of the story is that currently hops are on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, under section 205.606, meaning that beer labeled “organic” can and does include conventionally grown hops. Organic beer does not mean organic hops. Hops were put on the National List in June 2007 when organic hops were mostly produced overseas, primarily in New Zealand and Europe. Since that time, American growers have made significant advances in the area of organic hop production, to the point where the AOHGA, in coalition with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Anheuser-Busch, Lakefront Brewery, Seven Bridges Cooperative, and Hopunion LLC, petitioned the USDA to remove hops from the National List in December of 2009.

Earlier in September, the Handling Committee of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted 6 – 0 to leave hops on the National List, stating that “On the basis of written and public comment in response to this petition to remove, organic hops were deemed not to be available in the form, quantity, or quality to currently justify removal from 205.606. To do so would negatively impact the organic brewing industry.” They also said that “although some varieties of hops were available as organic, not all varieties are equal, and many varieties used for specific flavor profiles or beer types were not available.” This suggests that all 150 hop varieties must be available organically before the NOSB will consider removing hops from the National List. Keep in mind, of course, that not all barley varieties are available organically (nor is this true for a multitude of organic crops), and yet organic barley is required in organic beer. Quite simply, for a grower to commit to growing all hop varieties organically, without a market to sell to, would be neither economical nor logistically feasible.

The NOSB is meeting on October 25th and 27th in Madison, WI to pass final judgment on this issue for the foreseeable future.  The AOHGA is asking that hops be phased off of the National List. Abrupt removal would negatively impact both the breweries and the growers, since the acreage currently committed to organic production is not enough to meet organic brewing demands. Phasing hops off of the list would not only give the growers a chance to meet the production demands, but also to meet the varietal demands. Currently, since no one is demanding organic hops, growers don’t know what varieties are of greatest interest to organic breweries.

Both the AOHGA and Patrick’s blog outline the situation far better than I could, and I encourage you to check them out for further information.

Wondering what you can do? Leave a written comment for the NOSB, the deadline for written comments is October 12th.

Alternatively, if you’re going to be in Madison, Wisconsin on Monday, October 25th or Wednesday, October 27th… The NOSB will be hearing in-person comments. Contact Lisa Ahramjian at nosb@ams.usda.gov or (202) 720-3252 to reserve a 5-minute slot, making note of your desired date and topic. The deadline is Tuesday, October 12, 2010.

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