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Hop growers on the rise in Pennsylvania

Garden Notes

The International Herb Association chose hops (Humulus lupulus) as their 2018 Herb of the Year.

This past February, the Pennsylvania Malt and Brewed Beverages Industry Promotion Board awarded Penn State two grants: $70,559 for the Design and Development of Improved Drying Technologies for Pennsylvania Hop Growers and $65,595 for the evaluation of the Effect of Fungicides on Pennsylvania Hop Aroma Quality.

“Brewing beer is an important industry to Pennsylvania’s economy and is growing,” according to Gov. Tom Wolf. “These grants build on the effort to modernize our beer laws and support the industry to create job opportunities from the farm to the brewery, pub and grocery store.”

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said, “With 300 licensed breweries and a 300 percent increase in breweries in the past six years alone, brewing beer is a $5.8 billion industry in Pennsylvania. The grants PLCB awarded pave the way for continued growth in Pennsylvania’s malt and brewed beverage industry.”

Most of the hops grown in the United States grow in the Northwest. At last count, Washington State had 27,000 acres of hops under cultivation. The number of Pennsylvania hop farms is miniscule by comparison, but a billion dollar industry is nothing to be sneezed at.

Hops are hardy perennials that require full sun and about 120 frost-free days. Good drainage and a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0 will give you a deliriously happy hop.

The deliriously happy hop starts with a rhizome from a good clean stock program. “Cascade” is resistant to most pests and is an easy first-time crop for a Blair County gardener or grower. After the danger of frost is past, plant the rhizome(s) two to three inches deep and two to three feet apart. Feet! Then get out of the way. “Ted” A. Artz, Holtwood Hops in Rawlinsville, said he’s seen his hop plants grow more than 4 inches a day.

Managing wildly lush hop foliage takes both horizontal and vertical planning. A hop bine can be trained to grow straight up posts or twine and will quickly climb 15 to 20 feet. Pruning is necessary to prevent diseases and allow for good air circulation. A Hop Yard manager will focus on root development in the year following planting. Hops die back at the first frost, but the below ground root system will have stored carbohydrates which will feed the rhizome(s) until the following spring.

The demand for local hops is creating a renewed interest in hop crops. Penn State Extension’s Hops Project has a Facebook page where you can follow the production of a working hop farm and gauge your interest in starting your own.

The Penn State Hops Team will be hosting a Hops Field Day at the Rock Springs Research farm on July 24.

More event details will be announced as they are confirmed but you might consider saving the date to see the trial, the newly constructed oast house and an educational class or two.

Contact Teresa Futrick at esroyllek@hotmail.com.

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