Planning for a new hopyard 1: Considering varieties

As the hop harvest winds down, current growers may be interested in expanding production and new growers may be developing business plans for establishing new hopyards next spring.

As the hop harvest winds down, current growers may be interested in expanding production and new growers may be developing business plans for establishing new hopyards next spring. An important factor to take into consideration is variety selection.

When deciding on varieties, a grower should consider at least three factors:

First, what varieties do brewers in your area prefer? Based on Michigan State University Extension surveys, Cascade is the most heavily-utilized variety of hop in Michigan, followed by Centennial. Michigan brewers also indicated they would like to source popular varieties such as Simcoe®, Citra® and Amarillo®, but these are proprietary and are not currently grown in Michigan. However, Michigan brewers may be interested in unique non-proprietary varieties as well. Taking the time to research the market and discuss the needs of different brewers can help ensure sales into the future.

Second, what varieties yield well? Yields will directly impact net revenue. Lower yielding and higher yielding hop varieties generally require the same annual operating costs in terms of fertility and pest management. The difference between a variety that produces 800 lbs. per acre vs. one that produces 2500 lbs. per acre is the difference between thousands of dollars in potential revenue annually. USA Hops has published a variety manual that describes typical quality measures and average yields of many varieties.

The third factor is resistance to downy mildew. This factor is extremely important since downy mildew management is costly and time-consuming. Lizotte (2014) describes the challenges associated with downy mildew management under Michigan conditions. In addition to choosing varieties that are resistant to downy mildew, it is also critical to source clean planting material when setting up a hopyard.

For more information on hops, please visit MSU Extension as well as MSU’s Hop webpage.

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