Financing Options Available to Hop Growers

At the upcoming Grow More Hops Academy Seminars on January 17, 2015 in St. Paul, MN and on January 24, 2015 in Wisconsin Dells, WI, hop growing economics, business planning and hops financing options will be discussed. Financial experts from Badgerland Financial, AgStar Financial and the USDA Farm Service Agency will be on hand to discuss grant and loan programs available to new and small farmers like hop growers. According to a new study by Michigan State University, it will cost a hop grower around $14,000 plus land and irrigation well costs to establish an acre of hops. It will cost a little over $68,000 to establish a 5 acre hop yard. Operational costs will total a little over $58,000 per acre for the first five years of production. Since it takes 4 years for the typical hop yard to achieve full production, a solid financial plan is essential for the survival of a new hops operation. If these facts affect you, plan to attend the Minnesota or WisconsinGrowing a Hops Business” seminars. See you there!

Hops Business Seminar announces Guest Speaker

Dave Kochendorfer, business planning expert of the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire will be presenting on writing a business plan for your hops business at both Grow More Hops! “Growing a Hops Business” seminars in January. This includes the January 17, 2015 in St. Paul, MN and January 24, 2015 in Wisconsin Dells. A business plan is a requirement for many loan and grant applications for small and medium farms like hops operations. Seminar attendees can expect to be able to put together their own business plan at the conclusion of Mr. Kochendorfer’s workshop. Click HERE for more details. Wisconsin Small Business Development Center information.

Growing a Hops Business Seminar Announced

Our next two seminars are entitled “Growing a Hops Business”, part of the Grow More Hops Academy seminar series in 2014/2015. We have assembled business experts to help you understand how to write a business plan and find financing for your hops business. These seminars will apply to any small/medium agricultural business.
The decision to start a hops business is frequently based on a passion for growing hops, drinking beer and/or growing your own ingredients to make beer. While exciting, starting a hop growing enterprise also needs to be a sustainable investment in the future. Interested? We will be holding two of these seminars:  On January 17, 2015 in St. Paul, MN and on January 24, 2015 in Wisconsin Dells, WI.  Click one of the following links to purchase tickets:  Minnesota Seminar Wisconsin Seminar

It’s Planning Season!

After your hops are harvested and have gone to sleep for the winter, it’s time to prepare for the 2015 season. Do you have your supplies lined up? Are you expanding your hopyard? There are lots of things to consider. One thing is for sure.  The demand for locally grown hops has never been higher and will not decrease for years into the future. Are you prepared to take advantage of that opportunity? I can help you. Just contact me. I’d love to help you succeed in your hops business.

Time is running out to register for Hops Fertilization, Irrigation and Pest Management!

Do you want to learn more about feeding, watering and keeping hops safe from all kinds of pests? Time is running out to register for the Grow More Hops Academy Seminar covering these topics this Saturday in Wisconsin Dells. Click HERE for tickets.

Beer From The Farm

Originally posted on Rogue Farms:

Check out this story about Rogue Farms in the latest Modern Farmer. Beer and spirits begin on the farm!

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Post Harvest Hopyard Management from Michigan State University

As growers wrap up hop harvest this 2014 season, they can follow these post-harvest tips to help prepare for next year.

Figure 1. The disease cycle of <i>Pseudoperonospora humuli</i>, the causal agent of downy mildew in hop. Photo credit: V. Brewster, Compendium of Hop Diseases and Pests.

Figure 1. The disease cycle of Pseudoperonospora humuli, the causal agent of downy mildew in hop. Photo credit: V. Brewster, Compendium of Hop Diseases and Pests.

For the most part, the work of the 2014 season is complete. However, growers can still consider pest management practices that may impact next year, post-harvest irrigation, compost application and record keeping.

Controlling downy mildew

Many growers struggled to control downy mildew this year due to challenging weather conditions. Growers cultivating particularly susceptible varieties faced a particularly difficult season and may be wondering what can be done post-harvest to combat this important and damaging disease. To properly answer this question, we need to fully understand the disease cycle of Pseudoperonospora humuli, the causal agent of downy mildew of hops (Figure 1) and how growing conditions in Michigan can affect the efficacy of late season treatments.

Mycelium, the vegetative part of the downy mildew pathogen, overwinters in buds and crowns or plant debris (infected leaves, stems) left on the field. As shoots emerge in the spring, they may already be infected with this overwintering mycelium. As the hop bine begins to grow, the mycelium produces a microscopic spore-bearing structure (sporangiophore) on the underside of leaves, giving the underside a gray, fuzzy appearance. These structures give rise to an asexual type of spore called zoospores. Zoospores move via wind and rain and act as the major cause of disease spread during the season, infecting new leaves, shoots and eventually even cones. The reproductive cycle that produces zoospores may repeat multiple times over the season, depending on temperature and moisture availability.

Alternately, mycelium may also yield a resting spore (oospore) that it produces through sexual recombination. Oospores are typically more resistant to environmental changes and are often referred to as resting spores. It is unclear at this time if Michigan’s climate provides environmental conditions conducive to oospore production.

When considering a post-harvest treatment, it is important to remember that the downy mildew fungus will overwinter in the plant itself and is protected by the plant epidermis. While there are no data to suggest that post-harvest treatments are beneficial in terms of a reduction in disease next season, there is a general correlation between disease presence and severity from season to season that warrants further research. If growers want to try an experimental post-harvest application, they should focus on utilizing systemic fungicides that move downward in the plant tissue and might disrupt the mycelium that will be the source of next year’s infection.

Systemic fungicides are typically described as locally systemic, acropetal systemic (moving upward), or basipetal systemic (moving downward). Locally systemic materials are not useful for the treatment of downy mildew at this time because they do not move far from the site of application and don’t reach the sites where the pathogen overwinters. Truly systemic fungicides are taken up by the xylem or phloem tissue of the plant and moved to new tissues. Many of the systemic materials today are only translocated outward via the xylem or water-conducting tissues. Distribution of a systemic fungicide in the phloem or carbohydrate-conducting tissue tissues (basipetal translocation or downward movement) would include translocation into the crown and roots where downy mildew overwinters.

Fungicides labeled for hops that move systemically downward include Aliette and phosphite fungicides. Given the overwintering location of the fungus a systemic fungicide with downward movement would be the best option. That being said, with little remaining leaf area and bines shutting down from shorter day length, there may be limited value to a fungicide application at this time. Based on the lack of supporting data, post-harvest treatments for downy mildew are not recommended as a general practice at this time. Growers with high levels of downy in their hopyards should instead focus on developing an early and aggressive protectant treatment program for next spring. Refer to the article “Battling downy mildew as hop harvest approaches” from Michigan State University Extension for more information.

Post-harvest insect pests

Now let’s consider some of the problematic insect pests still lingering after harvest. Potato leafhoppers, damson hop aphids and two-spotted spider mites were all reported at significant levels in hopyards, and growers are considering what treatment strategies are available post-harvest.

Potato leafhoppers (Photos 1-2) were a real issue for some growers, but a treatment now would not affect populations next season because potato leafhoppers currently in hopyards will not survive the winter. Potato leafhoppers move north on spring storms and reinfest each year. Once potato leafhoppers arrive, they reproduce in the hopyards and can cause significant damage. However, their inability to survive the winter wipes out the entire population in Michigan each year.

Potato leafhopper

 Leafhopper damage
Photos 1-2. Potato leafhopper nymph (left) and hop leaf covered in nymphs and showing signs of feeding damage with necrotic leaf margins (right). Photo credit: Erin Lizotte, MSU Extension

Damson hop aphids were observed in higher numbers as harvest approached and some growers had problem infestations at harvest (Photo 3). Again, we must look at the lifecycle of the pest to determine if a post-harvest treatment could help keep numbers down next season. Hop aphids overwinter as eggs on Prunus species, genus of trees and shrubs that includes plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds. In early spring, eggs hatch into stem mothers that give birth to wingless females that feed on the Prunus host. In May, winged females are produced and travel to hop plants where additional generations of wingless females are produced. As cold weather approaches, winged females and males are produced, move back onto a Prunus host, mate and lay eggs for before winter. We expect that this migration away from hops and onto plants in the Prunus genus occurs sometime in September.

Growers with particularly high populations could apply a post-harvest insecticide to limit the overwintering populations, but only if they are still present in the hopyard. Growers considering an application should scout their fields and confirm the presence of aphids before applications are made. Refer to the article “Aphids on hop reported in significant numbers” for more information on management.

Damson hop ahid
Photo 3. A wingless damson hop aphid on hop. Photo credit: Erin Lizotte, MSU Extension

Finally, two-spotted spider mites (Photo 4) were an issue for some growers this season. Again, if we examine the lifecycle of the pest we can make better decisions about the potential impact of post-harvest management. Hops are a unique situation when it comes to mite management. Many horticultural crops use post-harvest treatments in infested sites to reduce overwintering populations, but hop growers remove the plant itself quite early in the season, likely removing a large portion of the mites with it. Two-spotted spider mites that remain overwinter as mated females on plant debris and trellis structures in the hopyard.

Mites remaining in the hopyard are susceptible to miticide applications, but likely account for a relatively small number in fall when they are beginning to migrate to overwintering sites. Unless the infestations were at an economically significant level, miticide applications should be avoided if possible. Often, one mite treatment leads to continued mite treatments as the natural balance of predators and beneficials is upset. For these reasons, two-spotted spider mite post-harvest treatments are not recommended unless hopyards were left unharvested and experienced extremely high populations. Refer to the article “Michigan hop update – July 31, 2014” for more information on managing two-spotted spider mites.

Two-spotted spider mite
Figure 4. Two-spotted spider mite, eggs and cast skins. Photo credit: Erin Lizotte, MSU Extension

Sanitize and fertilize in the fall

Growers should also consider the importance of sanitation at this time. Removal of all bines and leaves from the hopyard is recommended after the first hard freeze. Plant tissues can harbor insects and disease and should be removed, buried or burned. Growers who did not harvest this year (as in first year hops) are advised to remove the plants after a hard frost to prevent increased pest and disease pressure next season.

Growers planning to utilize compost fertilizer can apply it this fall. Recommendations from the west suggest applying a couple of shovels full directly onto and around the crown. Conventional wisdom also suggests watering the bines just before shutting down the irrigation for the year, particularly in areas without good snow cover where desiccation might be an issue this winter. Growers are advised to not fully saturate the soils, but keep the final watering moderate, particularly on heavier soils where rot could become an issue. Growers may also consider sub-soiling between rows in areas in need of better drainage, applying herbicides for perennial weed control, and removing unproductive or diseased crowns.

Take time to evaluate the season

Lastly, it is well worth a grower’s time to set aside a moment to reflect on the season. Take note of trouble areas in the hopyard and consider planning how to address pest or nutrient issues in the following season. It is also recommended that growers review their spray records and ensure they are complete.

For more information on record keeping, visit the resources page of the MSU Pesticide Safety program. For more information about growing hops in Michigan and the Great Lakes region, visit

When should you harvest hops?

It is past harvest for many hop growers, but this article from Michigan State University explains how to determine harvest date by having green hops analyzed for the alpha & beta acid content as well as smelling the hops, checking the lupulin to see if it is bright yellow and perhaps brewing a cup of hop tea to taste the flavor of the hops and their bitterness. Click HERE for the MSU article.

Grow More Hops LLC on the Wisconsin Farm Report

Recently, Lee Jennings, owner/crop consultant of Grow More Hops LLC was interviewed by the Wisconsin Farm Report. CLICK HERE FOR A LISTEN!  Also, don’t forget to sign up for the GROW MORE HOPS IN WISCONSIN SEMINAR ON SEPTEMBER 20TH IN WISCONSIN DELLS.

Call for Proposals for 2015 SARE Farmer Rancher Grants (USDA)

The North Central Region of SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education) division of the UDSA (United States Department of Agriculture) Farmer Rancher Grant Program is a competitive grants program for farmers and ranchers who want to explore sustainable solutions to problems through on-farm research, demonstration, and education projects. This program includes hops production. Here are the details:

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