Challenges & Opportunities for Organic Hop Production in the United States

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Abstract

Hop cones grown on the female plant of the perennial crop (Humulus lupulus L.) are an integral component of the brewing process and provide flavor, bitterness, aroma, and antimicrobial properties to beer. Demand for organically grown hops from consumers via the brewing industry is on the rise; however, due to high N requirements and severe disease, weed, and arthropod pressures, hops are an extremely difficult crop to grow organically.

Currently, the majority of the world's organic hops are grown in New Zealand, while other countries, including China, are beginning to increase organic hop production. Land under organic hop production in Washington State, where 75% of the hops in the United States are grown, increased from 1.6 ha to more than 26 ha from 2004 to 2010, and other hop-producing states demonstrate a similar trend.

Removing hops from the USDA Organic Exemption list in January 2013 is expected to greatly increase organic hop demand and will require corresponding increases in organic hop hectarage. Current challenges, including weed management, fertility and irrigation management, insect and disease pressures, and novel practices that address these issues will be presented. Here, we discuss current and future research that will potentially impact organic hop production in the United States.