Growing Hops in the SoutheastJeanine DavisDepartment of Horticultural ScienceMills River, NC

Why is there so much interest ingrowing hops in the Southeast? Proliferation of craftbreweries. Home brewing increasing. Need for organic hops. Fresh hops for seasonalbrews. Locally grown movement.

Will hops grow here? Sure they will! We have plenty of people doingit now! There once was an industry inthis region. Home brewers grow their own.

The hop plant(Humulus lupulus) Long-lived perennial plants (10-25 years). Commercial plants are all female. Bines grow each year to be about 25 feetlong. Dies back to the crown each fall. Establish by planting rhizomes, cuttings, ormicro-propagated plants.

Crown puts out lots of shoots; binesBurrsandconesThe mature cone haslupulin (oil) glandscontaining alpha and betaacids, and essential oils.

Hops are short day (long night)plants. The largest hop yieldsare usually obtained betweenth and 55th latitudes.the3555 45 35 PhotoperiodismMap:

Need 15 hour daylength forhighest yields Berlin, Germany 16 hrs 50 minYakima Valley, WA 15 hrs 51 minCharlottesville, VA 14 hrs 49 minAsheville, NC 14 hrs 33 minVermont- Largest producerCharlottesville, VAAsheville, NCGraph from Thomas andSchwabe, 1969

Day Length Issues Hops grow vigorously during long summerdays and set flowers as days shorten in lateJune. Flower initiation is also node number, cultivar,and temperature dependent. Where day length is too short, floweringoccurs when node number is met, but beforethe plants have put on a lot of growth. Without intervention, this significantlyreduces our yields.

Humidity and high rainfall presentschallenges for East Coast producersGraphic from the Weather Channel website

About six years agofarmers startedseriously plantinghops in VA and NC

NC State started a hops researchand extension program in 2010 Soil Science and Horticulture Conducted variety trials Developed productionguidelines Looked at economicsPhotos from S. King and R. Austin program

Basics of Hops Production

Step 1. Site selection Fertile, welldrained soil. Good aircirculation. Good drainage.Photo from J. Davis program

Step 2. Take soil samples The NC Dept of Agriculture & Consumer Serviceshas a code for hops.119 HopsPhoto from S. King and R. Austin program

Nutrient Management for Hops in NC– Hops are big feeders – require fairly large amountsof N/P/K– Early spring and early summer – split applicationsof N/P/K.– pH 6.0 to 6.5Nitrogen: 125 to 150 lbs/acrePhosphorus: if soil index is 0: 150 lbs/acrePotassium: if soil index is 0: 150 lbs/acreSulfur: if soil index is 0: 20 lbs/acreBoron recommend 1 lb/acreSoil pH between 6.0 and 6.5.Graphic from

Step 3. Disk and apply anyrecommended amendmentsPhotos from S. King and R. Austin program

Step 4. Construct TrellisHobby or small-scale trellisingPhotos from Battleground Brewers, Red Hill Brewery, and S. King and R. Austin program

Short Trellis ConstructionEasy to construct & manage, 12 feet tall; limits yields.Photos from S. King and R. Austin program

Construction of a traditional talltrellis (16 to 20 feet)Photos from J. Davis program

Top wire can be raised and loweredNo ladders orcherry pickersneeded.Photos from J. Davis program

Step 5. Install irrigationPhotos from J. Davis, S. King and R. Austin programs

Step 6. Plan for weed controlPhotos from J. Davis program

Step 7. Plant hops in springMarch and AprilPhotos from J. Davis, S. King, and R. Austinprograms

Quality of hop rhizomes Try to get certified diseasefree. Buy disease resistantvarieties. Be cautious of buying fromother growers; see theplants in growth. Check out your sourcescarefully. There are many viruses,viroids, and mildews that canbe brought into your yard onrhizomes.Photos from J. Davis program

What does it cost to establish a hop yard?From Getting Started in Hops presentation by Steve Miller , Cornell, with NE Hops Alliance

Step 7a in some est. yards:root pruning Rhizomes will spread out and take overyard. Cut around the crowns in early spring.Photos from

Step 7b in est. yards:Cutting back to ground Remove early shoots to managedisease and control flowering. Early shoots may be infected withpowdery and downy mildew spores. We cut back until May 1.

Step 8. Put up strings and trainCoir versus sisal twinePhotos from J. Davis program

Step 9. Strip bottom of plantsPhotos from J. Davis program

Step 9. Manage for diseases andinsectsPhotos from Sue Colucci’s blog , J. Davis program, and Oregon State University,

Monitor your yard daily! Plant disease resistant varieties. Learn what the insects and diseases looklike. Take lots of pictures. Practice prevention: clean rootstock, springpruning, farmscaping, etc. Take notes so you can do better next year.Photos from J. Davis program

Downy Mildew

Step 11. HarvestPhotos from J. Davis program

Hand harvesting It takes about one hourto harvest a pound ofwet hops. A small brewery wantsbetween 25-30 lbs ofhops within 24 hours ofharvest to do a wet hopbrew. That means some verylong hours or extra help.Photos from Rita Pelczar

How others harvestTop left: from Blue Mountain Brewery, top right: Willamette Valley Hops; lower left: MOFGA; lower right, Chillindamos Brewing

Step 12. DryPhotos from J. Davis program and Rob Austin

Step 12. Dry and PackagePhotos from J. Davis program and Rob Austin

Drying at Blue Ridge Hops Get hops intothe dryerASAP. Lowtemperatureand high airflow.Photo from Ritz Pelczar

Step 12b. Pelletize? Many breweries onlyuse dried, pelletizedhops. Pelletizers areexpensive but canbe sharedequipment.Photo (top) from and (bottom) from

Step 13. PackagingNote: Hop varieties have different storage stabilities,they don’t all keep the same!Photos from J. Davis program and

Step 14. Sell the hops Craft breweriesHome brewersHerbal product companiesMake your own beersMake your own productsHop rhizomes and cuttingsPick your ownSell wet or dried

Step 15. Fall Clean-upPhotos from Rita Pelczar

What have welearned from ourresearch? Piedmont: Raleigh inJuly of first year ofgrowth (also calledLake Wheeler insome of the slides) Mountains: MillsRiver in July of firstyear of growth

RaleighMills River Both sites contained Centennial, Nugget,Zeus, Cascade, Newport, Mt. Hood,Willamette, and Chinook. The Raleigh yard also had Sterling andNorthern Brewer. The Mills River yard had Galena and Magnum.

We measured and recordedeverything we could think of Plant height Plant vigor Susceptibilityto insects anddiseases Cone yield Plant tissuenutrients Dried coneanalyses Soil analyses

Average wet hop yield per plant2011: higher yields of all varieties in Mills River (year one)than Raleigh (Lake Wheeler) (year two).

Average wet hop yield per plant2011: higher yields of all varieties in Mills River (year one)than Raleigh (Lake Wheeler) (year two).

Downy Mildew in Mills RiverYear 1Year 2Year 3

Average wet hop yield per plant 2012: four varieties in Raleigh out-yielded those in Mills River. Cascade was the most reliable producer.

Harvest yields including CRV (Canadian Red Vine) CRV was planted as a crown (not rhizome) in 2013and yielded 3.86 pounds per plant.

Canadian Red Vinea great first year

Cones were dried and analyzed.

White Labs2011Alpha Analytics2013Average Range %Cascade Alpha Acid45.24.5-7Cascade Beta Acid2.64.54.5-7Nugget Alpha Acid8.912.111-14.5Nugget Beta Acid2.84.74.5-5.5Chinook Alpha Acid6.78.110-14Chinook Beta Acid1.72.53-4Centennial Alpha Acid65.99.5-11.5Centennial Beta Acid22.63.5-4.5Galena Alpha Acid9.66.810-14Galena Beta Acid5.35.57-9Magnum Alpha Acid6.9813-15Magnum Beta Acid2.63.54.5-5.5Zeus Alpha Acid5.56.113-17Zeus Beta Acid3.84.14.5-5.5Mt. Hood Alpha Acid3.93-7Mt. Hood Beta Acid4.15-7VarietyCRV Alpha Acid62-5.5CRV Beta Acid75-6

Do the hops make good beer? Reports from breweries, homebrewers, taste tests, festivals,and hop yards are thatSoutheastern grown hops canbe used, wet and dried, tomake good beer. We need to work on producinga more consistent product. We need to deliver what we saywe can deliver when wepromise it.Photos from Ivory Tower Brewery

Variety selection appears to be the singlemost important factor in hop yard success orfailure! Thus far, Cascade and Columbus (Zeus) aretop performers with Galena, Chinook, andNugget also proving to be acceptable.

Wet Hop Yields Common yield from young NC plants is onewet pound per plant. This should increase each year as the plantsmature. Some growers in NC reporting yields of 4 to6 wet pounds per plant. One pound wet dries to about 0.25 lb.

Hop yields-Cascadeassume 1,000 plants/acre and 8% moistureLocationPlant ageWet yields (lbs)Dry yields (lbs)OregonMature1,000-2,000NY (Univ. est.)Mature800-1,200MichiganMatureVermont (Univ.)3 yearsNCSU-mtns3 years1,250313NC mtns-comm.4 years2,000160NC mtns-comm.Mature4,000320NC piedmont-comm.4 years2,000-3,000160-2402,000-6,000160-480200

Economics of Production

NCSU web resources


Southern Appalachian Hops

Project funded by:

Growing Hops in the Southeast Jeanine Davis Department of Horticultural Science Mills River, NC . . C