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by Erika Henderson - August 28, 2019
Here is a guest post from graduate student Erika Henderson sharing the work she's
been doing on using a rotating low-trellis training system in hops!
Hops require vertical systems to support bine growth. Typical standard hop trellis
systems have 12- 18 feet tall pole supports with vertical strings or netting that
encourage bine growth, airflow, and sun exposure (Kemme, 2013). Trellises 12 feet tall are often referred to as a “low” trellis, as 18’ tall
is standard. Yields are known to be reduced on low trellising systems, however ease
of management is increased for small scale growers. Netting, in place of vertical
string or twine, has been found to be inadequate for ease of weeding and harvesting
in a hops trial done on a low-trellis in Canada (Brennan, 2012). The adequate spacing
of the hops plants is important for airflow and to prevent fungal diseases within
the hop canopy, but if plants are spaced too far apart yields can be lower per acre
(Kemme, 2013).Trellising and training of the hops can thus be critical to the production
of high-quality hop cones.
The IBEX hops growing system is currently being evaluated at several locations around
the country for hop production and is not yet commercially available. The design is
similar to the Rotating Cross ArmTM trellis used in blackberry production, which is manufactured by Trellis Growing Systems,
LLC. The IBEX hops growing system has 12’ long arms posts spaced at 30 feet apart
and four horizontal wire supports that run between the arms. It can also be rotated
at different angles to provide easier bine training, harvesting and pest management.
The modified trellising system could also potentially be used with a modified training
system that could affect the production of side laterals and the number of cones per
These advantages may give a unique opportunity for small farms with 0.25 to 5 acres
or for small organic production (Barnes, 2016). The ability to shift the canopy at harvest may make harvest by hand easier
or potentially facilitate mechanical harvest. ). Moving the arm of the trellis requires
minimal labor input. It is feasible for one to two people to move the long arm up
and down during seasons of hop growth, which would benefit small-scale growers who
have minimal labor (Barnes, 2016).
Maintaining hop plant health without the use of heavy spray applications is a common
concern for small-scale hop growers (Barnes, 2016). The Rotating Low-Trellis system may take less time to spray when compared
to the spray management of a standard high trellis (Barnes, 2016).
Hop variety selection is important to consider when growing hops on a low trellis.
There are hop varieties that set cones high on the bines and may not be suitable for
planting on reduced height hops trellis designs (Kemme, 2013). Low-cone setting hop varieties, like ‘Cascade’, are suitable for a low-trellis
design (Brennan, 2012).
Our project will evaluate four varieties of hops planted on an IBEX hops growing system
at the University of Arkansas Fruit Research Station in Clarksville, AR. The trial
consists of the varieties ‘Crystal’, ‘Cascade’, ‘Zeus’, and ‘Cashmere’ that were planted
on June 24th, 2019 next to a previously established standard trellised hops trial (Pictures 1-2). The goal of this trial is to evaluate the performance of hops on a movable Low-Trellis
design for small-scale hop production in the state of Arkansas.
Picture 1-2: ‘Crystal’, ‘Cascade’, ‘Zeus’, and ‘Cashmere’ hop plug plants prior to
transplant (left); Hop plants planted prior to final construction of the IBEX hops
growing system. The standard hop trellis can be seen in the background (right).
The hops plug transplants ( Picture 1) came from Great Lakes Hops in Michigan and the IBEX hops growing system came from
Trellis Growing System in Fort Wayne, IN. TheIBEX is 60’ long-running east to west
with three 15’ long blocks. Each block consist of the randomized four varieties planted
3’ apart. The trellis has three posts spaced 30’ apart (Pictures 3-4). Tie-back posts are located at the east and west ends 7.5’ away from the first hops
Picture 3-4: Three post IBEX hops growing system constructed on August 7th. The trellis arms can be rotated downward at each post near where the square plate
The 60’ row was tilled in late June and 46 lbs. of lime and 7.6 lbs. of triple 15
pre-plant fertilizer was applied (Picture 5). Landscape fabric was laid out on June 14th to help with weed control (Picture 6).
Picture 5-6: Application of pre-plant fertilizer prior to laying out landscape fabric
(left); laying out 60’ landscape fabric (right).
Picture 7: Set-up of irrigation line
The hops transplants were acclimated before planting and then planted on June 24th on the north side of the Fruit Research Station vineyard. The hops were hand-watered
until irrigation was set up on June 27th (Picture 7). The irrigation ran based on weather, temperature and soil moisture in the vineyard.
Each plant received 0.03 lbs N of Peter’s Professional liquid fertilizer on July 12th. To prevent sun and heat damage, a temporary shade cloth was put over the young hops
before the trellis was set up (Pictures 8-9). The ideal planting date for hops is in the spring or early fall, mid-summer planting
is not generally recommended.
Picture 8-9: Shade cloth cover to protect newly planted hop plants
Observations planned for the 2020 trial include yield, the physiology of hops plants,
disease and pests, and hop cone quality. The observations taken are assessed on how
hops plant vigor performs on a low-trellis system in the Southeast climatic conditions
and how the rotating positions of the trellis can allow easier harvest and management.
No hops will be produced the first year of 2019 to take observations on, but observations
on plant establishment will continue into the fall.
Home and local beer production in the state of Arkansas is a growing interest and
some small-scale farmers prefer more low input or organic production. New trellis
opportunities, such as the IBEX hops growing system, may give small-scale farmers
an advantage to maintain their hop plants in a sustainable way while keeping good
quality yield and hop plant health with less time and labor.
Barnes, R. 2016. Low trellis production and harvesting system for hops. U.S. Dept. Agr., Washington,
Brennan, R. 2012. Trial low trellis hop yard. UVM Extension Winter Hops Conference. 31 July 2019. https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/Northwest-Crops-and-Soils-Program/Presentations/Brennan_Low_Trelis_Hops.pdf
Kemme, L. 2013. Selecting the right trellis design to grow great hops. 29 July 2019. https://www.greatlakeshops.com/hops-blog/selecting-the-right-trellis-design-to-grow-great-hops