Craft brewing is an emerging industry in Nebraska, producing 33,939 barrels per year and having a direct economic impact of $424 million dollars in 2014 alone. Hops production acreage across the world has dropped from 180,000 in 1992 to 110,000 acres in 2014, increasing the demand for hops in the United States, principally aroma (alpha-acid) types utilized for craft brews desired by consumers.
At present, 39 percent of the alpha-type hops are grown in the United States with the majority (98 percent) presently grown in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, having a combined harvest acreage of 38,011 acres. Hops can be grown in much of the United States but needs to be evaluated for varietal performance, productivity and quality.
There are currently 32 identified commercial craft breweries in Nebraska that are sourcing a majority of their hops from out of state. These projects will evaluate the potential for commercial hops production by specialty crop growers in Nebraska given the demand nationally is increasing linearly.
What’s Happening in the Hops Yard?October 6, 2016
Harvest date is determined by moisture content of the hop cones. We like to hit between 78 and 82 percent moisture content. That is when the cohumulone is at its maximum content. Late harvests allow for a deterioration of the alpha acids (or cohumulone and colupulone compounds.)
Hop harvest was completed for all varieties on August 31 for all but the Scottsbluff, Nebraska trial site. It was noted that Willamette and Perle were beyond optimal harvest date by as much as 10 days. All other varieties were near the optimal harvest moisture content of 78–80 percent. Though the target alpha acid content was near target, the cones shattered more easily during harvest when excessively dry.
Plants were cut back to approximately 28 inches above the soil level after harvest. Minimal regrowth occurred but allowed for the plants to “sense” environmental changes and prepare for a winter rest. Edges of the planting beds were cut and soil flipped back towards the plants to encourage rhizome development and improve drainage and air exchange.
Photos: (bottom left clockwise) 1. Hops at Scottsbluff hops yard. 2. Closeup of hops cones on the plant ready to be pulled through a hops harvester at Scottsbluff. 3. Hop harvester on University of Nebraska–Lincoln East Campus. 4. Hops harvester cleans the bine, removing leaves and cones. Using blower, the leaves are blown out and the cones gather on a collection belt and are dispensed into a bin.
NEBRASKA HOPS NEWS
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln is pleased to announce the dates for the First Annual Nebraska Grower and Brewer Conference and Trade Show. The two-day conference will be held Thursday and Friday, Jan. 5-6, 2017, at Nebraska Innovation Campus, 2021 Transformation Drive, Lincoln, Neb. Register at http://www.growbrewnebraska.com. Read more at IANR News.
Free seminars in MayOctober 14, 2016
The Nebraska Hops team will again be offering a free hops seminar in Lincoln and Scottsbluff in May of 2017 and farm tours of each of the research sites in August 2017. Watch for additional fee-based educational opportunities for those interested in commercial hops production. Please see past seminar presentations and photos at http://agronomy.unl.edu/hops-seminar.
Hops Cultivar and Production Evaluation for Nebraska
This project is to evaluate eight selected hop varieties, having desirable qualities for craft beer brewers and hobbyists, for plant health, productivity, quality and annual consistency at multiple locations across Nebraska. Funding for the Cultivar trials is from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and Specialty Crop Block Grant Project.
The Nebraska Hops cultivar evaluation had a remarkable season! The working plan for this first year of the three year project was considered to be an establishment year. One in which we prepared the planting beds, installed the trellis and planted the rooted hop liners. Culture was implemented to establish healthy plants, and additionally, observations were made to identify potential pests or cultural challenges we might find.
As the season progressed, at most locations, the individual hop cultivars exceeded our expectations in performance. Culture did play a major contributor in the quality we observed, however, we did note that certain cultivars were very consistent in their growth, flowering and cone development. A sampling was made of all varieties grown to investigate the quality of these first year hop cones. The results are shown in the following table.
Hop Testing Lab Results
|Cultivar||Project Alpha Acid||Project Beta Acid||Alpha Target|
**These varieties not in the statewide cultivar evaluation however a part of the UNL campus collection.
Genetic Diversity of Nebraska Wild Hops
A study to investigate the genetic traits of hop plants found in locations (wild or minimally tended) across the State that have exhibited survivability over several decades.
Hop Breeding Program
Development of regionally adapted hops through traditional plant breeding methods.
During summer of 2016, our researchers are installing five research plantings in various locations statewide. This first year will be site development and plant establishment. The purpose of this project is to create some foundational information applicable to emerging specialty crop hop growers. Four research plantings are “mirror” plantings using same varieties, trellising, and cultural programming. Of specific interest are performance characteristics in varying environmental and geographical situations. On University of Nebraska–Lincoln East Campus, a larger planting will be installed to support efforts in breeding work and chemical application evaluation. 2016 will be establishment for all of these sites, however, updates will be provided.