Developing the Ohio hops and malting barley industry

By: Brad Bergefurd, Extension Educator Horticulture /Agriculture and Natural Resources 

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 $36 million out of Ohio annually by purchasing hops and malting barley 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, Brad Bergefurd of OSU South Centers and OSU Extension Scioto County, and Dr. Sally Miller of the OSU Department of Plant Pathology 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. Most of the barley grain cultivated today is a six-row feed winter barley variety used for livestock feed on-farm or sold at local elevators. Of the 6,000 acres of barley, less than 50 acres in 2015 were 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 cultivation of 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.

The OSU South Centers Horticulture program conducted several hops and malting barley educational programs and field days in 2015, reaching over 2,000 people 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, three Hops Field Days held at the Wooster, Piketon and Bowling Green research sites and the 2nd annual Hops and Craftbrewers Conference in Wooster with over 350 in attendance.  An Ohio Hop Farm tour was conducted in partnership with the Ohio Hop Growers Guild, OHGG.org, where over 500 people participated in all-day tours of ten commercial hop farms throughout Ohio. Hops workshop were also taught in two of Ohio’s Extension EERA regions in partnership with Extension Educators in those areas 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. 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 extension #132.