Eighteen people attended a hops field day Aug. 21 at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln West Central Research, Extension and Education Center in North Platte. The event was sponsored by Nebraska Extension, Pesticide Application Technology Research & Extension, Nebraska Hop Growers Association and the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild.
Dave Gleason of NHGA presented the importance of being involved with the hop growers association to share the knowledge and strengthen understanding of producing quality hops as it impacts the Nebraska hop market. Gleason said there presently are six full commercial growers in Nebraska. The NHGA wants to increase this number. In addition, according to Gleason, numerous small hop growers are in the exploration stage of moving into the commercial sector.
Stacy Adams, hop extension specialist and associate professor of practice in agronomy and horticulture, presented information on the general character of hops and the seasonal growth and activities associated with growing hops. Adams said Nebraska growers differ in the harvesting of the crop as cooperatives are non-existent. So, the discussion expanded on the critical aspects of post-harvest handling and identification of hop markets.
Keenan Amundsen, associate professor and hop researcher in agronomy and horticulture, presented a summary on how hop breeding takes place and the unique aspects of how to introduce a unique Nebraska hop cultivar. He indicated that multiple wild hops have been collected from across Nebraska and that efforts are underway to transfer these plants’ adaptive traits for our environment to cultivars having desirable aromatic and bittering characteristics. In time, they hope to have a unique Nebraska hop available for distribution.
Brianne Schuler, of the NCBG, introduced the important role the NCBG plays in supporting Nebraska micro-brewers and the ‘made here/buy here’ movement. She said currently, 4% of the beer consumed in Nebraska is from Nebraska brewers and hop growers. NCBG has a goal of expanding that to 6% in the coming years. Efforts are being made to introduce changes in state legislation for Nebraska microbrewers to direct market their product without the multitiered distribution method.
Milos Zaric, a Nebraska doctoral student in agronomy and horticulture, presented the 3/4-acre hop yard associated with his work at the WCREEC. He discussed the construction of a hops trellis and irrigation systems and the first year of a hop’s growth. Zaric demonstrated the new specialty air blast sprayer he acquired from a Canadian manufacturer, a crucial aspect of his pesticide and herbicide application research.
“It was nice to be a part of the discussion about the challenges of growing hops in Nebraska with current and future hop growers,” Zaric said. “Stay tuned to hear more about upcoming research in hops!”
The hops field day participants toured the PAT Lab and were able to see how the laboratory tests for pesticide application uniformity and evaluation of drift through various wind tunnels. In addition, lab technologists and interns demonstrated the various lab-testing equipment.