Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show: Craft brewers hopping for joy
Thanks to some growers in Minnesota, craft brewers are hopping for joy as they grow their own. Hops, that is. The number of hops growers in the upper midwest has more than doubled in the last 4 years according to the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
The intense interest in small craft breweries has upped the ante for scientists to collaborate on research that helps to lessen the major hindrance to hops growers from the Dakotas to Vermont. It’s downy mildew and it’s very aggressive and destructive. But with colleagues across the country, C-FANS, is create mildew tolerant varieties, fine tune growing techniques and share the knowledge with local growers. Angela Orshinsky is assistant professor of Plant Pathology at C-FANS. She says a lot of growers are new to this and don’t know how to apply fungicides legally and appropriately. People don’t always realize that’s what they need to do. She said it takes a good 3 years to develop the best practices for specific climate conditions. Craft brewers use more hops than mass-market beers and consumers are interested in locally sourced product, so the market is there.
Now if you’re just growing the vine for your home garden, then be aware, they need room. The vines come in male or female and only the female produces the cones for use as hops. Flowering plant’s genders are easily recognized by the male’s five petaled flowers. It’s best to pull these out. They’re non-productive. There’s a joke there, but I’ll be kind! If given proper care, your backyard hops plant will send out rhizomes from which new plants will grow. I suggest you talk with your local county extension for the best information on fungicides in your area.