Developing the Ohio hops and malting barley industry

By: Brad Bergefurd, MS, Horticulture Specialist and Extension Educator
 
Statewide interest purchasing local malting barley and hops by Ohio brewers has Ohio State University moving ahead with research and educational programming on these crops. Ohio commercial beer manufacturers and craft brewers send an estimated $30 million out of Ohio annually by purchasing hops from West Coast farmers. To help keep some of that economic activity within the state, the Ohio State University has developed a hop and malting barley research and education program focused on production and marketing. Dr. Mary Gardiner of the OSU Entomology Department and Brad Bergefurd of OSU South Centers and OSU Extension Scioto County are the Principle Investigators of the Ohio hops research and industry development program.
 
Agricultural statistics records indicate that in 1871, barley was planted on 81,000 acres in Ohio, producing approximately two million bushels total. Today barley production ranks well below other small grains in Ohio with only 6,000 acres planted in 2014 compared to 620,000 acres of wheat planted. Most of the barley grain cultivated today is a six row winter feed barley variety used for livestock feed on-farm or sold at local elevators. Of the 6,000 acres of barley, less than 100 are estimated to be of the malting barley variety in demand by craft brewers.
 
Dr. Eric Stockinger of the Ohio State University Horticulture and Crop Science Department began growing and testing  malting barley in the 2008–2009 growing season, cultivating malting type barleys at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster and throughout northern Ohio. In 2013 Bergefurd and Gardiner partnered with Stockinger to expand this malting barley research into southern Ohio and began evaluating malting barley in southern Ohio at the Piketon Research and Extension Center, exploring both fall and spring planted varieties.  
 
The hop and malting barley projects are allowing Ohio State researchers and educators to develop sustainable production practices directly related to Ohio growing conditions that will develop these Ohio industries. Data collected from the field research trials allows us to educate growers about production, pest management practices, and marketing strategies to help them generate farm profits from these highly sought-after crops. The research is evaluating new cultivars, innovative production techniques, insect and disease control methods, harvesting, processing, and marketing techniques that can be adopted by Ohio farmers.  The research will allow Ohio’s beer manufacturers to spend their money in Ohio by purchasing Ohio-grown hops and malting barley and ultimately help create Ohio jobs, allowing Ohio growers to diversify into a high-value specialty crop.
 
Preliminary research results indicate hops and malting barley can be successfully grown and marketed throughout Ohio and are adaptable to most Ohio soil types. 
 
There is an ever-increasing Ohio market for hops and malting barley with the expanding craft brewing industry. The Ohio Department of Liquor Control sees continued interest in applications for alcohol-manufacturing permits, a trend that continues into 2015. Hops and malting barley are main ingredients in beer manufacturing, and are highly sought by local craft and home brewers. The majority of hops and malting barley are sold on the open market, with the northwest United States supplying the majority of U.S. hops. Currently, Ohio has an estimated 100 acres of hops and 100 acres of malting barley being grown on small acreage.
 
The OSU South Centers Horticulture program has conducted several hops and malting barley educational programs and field days this summer for those interested in learning more about the hop and malting barley research that is being conducted by the Ohio State University. These events included monthly first Friday educational tours at both the Piketon and Wooster research locations with over 200 participants so far in 2015. Two Hops Field Nights were conducted at Wooster on July 23 and at Piketon on July 30 with 80 participants from 20 counties participating. An Ohio Hop Farm tour was conducted in partnership with the Ohio Hop Growers Guild, where over 500 people participated in all-day tours of nine commercial hop farms throughout Ohio. A hops workshop was taught in July in cooperation with OSU Extension Adams, Brown and Highland Counties for new and interested hop farmers.
 
For more information on the Ohio Hops and malting barley research and industry development program, visit our Ohio Hops Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/OhioHops or the OSU South Centers website http://southcenters.osu.edu/horticulture/other-specialties/hops for more information. For information on the Ohio Hops Guild, visit OHGG.org.  If you would like to be added to the Ohio Hops email list serve to  receive Ohio hop updates and information contact Brad Bergefurd, Bergefurd.1@osu.edu or call the OSU South Centers 1-800-860-7232 or 740-289-2071 ext.132.