Healthy hops

Close-up of hops plant

Local beer needs healthy hops

An explosion in the last several years in the number of breweries across Minnesota has resulted in the expansion of a crop not widely grown in Minnesota: hops, a primary ingredient in beer.

There are about 75 hop yards in Minnesota, according to Angela Orshinsky, a University of Minnesota Extension plant pathologist. Orshinsky conducts hops research to help Minnesota producers grow the crop in a state where plant diseases affecting the vines spread easily.

“Downy mildew is the real problem for hops growers here, followed by fusarium fungi,” says Orshinsky. “Minnesota’s humid climate creates a more difficult environment to grow hops compared to traditional hops- growing regions like the Northwest east of the Rockies.”

Orshinsky’s work has focused on the prudent use of fungicides to control diseases. “There is no genetic resistance to disease in hops that’s foolproof,” she says.

Anyone growing hops commercially in Minnesota soon discovers that control of diseases is a major challenge,” says John Brach, who raises hops on Stone Hill Farm near Stillwater. “Having Dr. Orshinsky available through Extension for advice on downy mildew control has been a huge help to growers as the industry develops here.”

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