December 9, 2023

Growing Produce News Release

Future of Florida Hops Just Got a Little Brighter

Researchers, as well as private industry, are starting to shine light on growing hops in Florida and are indeed pushing for development of a Florida hop industry. This summer, University of Florida researchers, as well as researchers from the USDA and Florida Hops LLC, revealed results of their individual light treatment studies. All studies indicated light treatment, either through photoperiod extension or night interruption, significantly increased growth and yield of hops produced in Florida from a quarter pound per plant to 1 to 2 pounds per plant on first-year crops, and to more than 3 pounds on second-year plants. This is an important finding as one of the prohibitive factors to producing hops in Florida are yields.

By extending the photoperiod five to six hours per day, increasing the time plants are exposed to light to match similar conditions in more northern climates, Shinsuke Agehara and Zhanao Deng, researchers at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, were able to grow plants to heights of 20 feet, as well as encourage plants to produce lateral sidearms, increasing areas for possible cone development and thus multiplying yield.

Research conducted by Florida Hops LLC showed by using lighting, flowering in hops could be controlled and timed to meet market and environmental demands. Similarly, by breaking the dark period through a process called nighttime interruption, researcher Bill Turecheck at the USDA Agriculture Research Service Horticulture Research Laboratory in Ft. Pierce also was able to increase growth and yield by turning on solar-powered lights for an hour in the middle of the night during plants’ vegetative period. This practice causes plants to perceive shorter nights, rather than longer days, and prevents flowering from occurring during continuously shorter days.

All three studies included multiple hop varieties with most varieties having a consistent response to photoperiod manipulation, as well as harvesting months earlier than traditional production areas, further developing the idea that Florida can be first on the market with fresh hops.

Although other challenges still exist such as pest pressures and processing requirements, overcoming yield greatly increases the likelihood of the crop entering commercial viability.

Breweries such as Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, and 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg, Ten10 Brewing in Orlando, Wop’s Hops Brewing in Sanford, Sailfish Brewing Company in Ft. Pierce, and Pareidolia Brewing Company in Sebastian, will soon have beers made with hops from these studies to meet demand from craft beer enthusiast for more locally sourced ingredients.

Several other breweries throughout the state, such as Deviant Wolfe in Sanford and Dissent Craft Brewing Company in St. Petersburg, will brew some of the nation’s first wet-hopped beers of the season. Wet-hopped beers are highly sought after as they use hops within hours of picking, still wet and fresh, directly from the field. Brewers in the Southeast U.S., who traditionally lacked access to wet hops, would normally have to pay expensive overnight shipping costs, which have been preventative to the spread of the “bine to brewery” style in the region.

Moving hops far across state lines is challenging as wet and fresh hops have an extremely short shelflife and will rapidly become unusable for wort or beer. However, wet-hopped beers are remarkably different and often considered superior to their pelletized hopped counterparts as having more depth and layers in flavor and aroma. Wet-hopped beers capture more hop volatile compounds and essential oils, that would otherwise be dissipated by heat during the wort boil or hop drying process and creates a beer so unique that no other style has a closer or more direct connection to the crop.

This story is from Growing Produce. The author, Richard M. Smith, is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Orlando-based Florida Hops LLC. More stories by Smith, here.

Tags: Agriculture, Lifestyle

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