MVH is the first out spoken hops breeder in Virginia!!
In the early months of 2019, MVH began growing hops at an off-site location using seeds obtained from outside sources. We chose a separate site to ensure that no pollen from prospective male plants comes into contact with the cones at our main facility and to protect the proprietary nature of our program.
The seeds were stratified during an 8 week period following standard procedures and then potted in starter trays. These trays were then placed under grow lights to simulate springtime conditions until they sprouted and grew.
The picture on the right shows the first seedlings that began germinating following planting.
Are they Male or Female?
Unfortunately, we won't know that until they become fully grown. Males only produce flowers, while the females produce the cones that brewers love. I guess we will have to wait and see which is which.
While there are only five plants currently started, we have another tray full of seeds waiting to sprout. Hops are really finicky to get started from seeds and they do not typically breed true to parent lineage. Every seed from one hop cone will produce a genetically different plant. They're weird that way!
Once we determine which plants are male and which are female, we will separate them so that we only cross the males with selected females. The seeds harvested from those cones will then be grown the following season for selection and testing.
We decided to use cleaned and sanitized 5 gallon buckets as our large containers so that they can easily be moved throughout the season if necessary. This should allow plenty of room for the roots to grow for this year.
The trellising is definitely too short, but should still allow us to determine the gender of the plants once they start to flower. Next year, we will use a larger trellis for the males only and put the females in our hop yard to test their characteristics.
We also have some more plants sprouting from seeds in our greenhouse that will hopefully be add to our collection soon.
The plants are getting bigger by the day. The wire is around 6 feet tall and we simply loop the ends constantly around the top until they are done growing. It creates a bit of a mess at the top, but it allows us to get an idea of how tall they might get once we put them on the regular trellis at the hop yard.
Now that the root structures are getting bigger in those buckets, we have been watering them much more frequently. It won't be long before we will need to start adding more nutrients so that they can remain healthy.
We now can confirm that we have two males! We believe that one or two of the others are female, but we must wait a little longer before we can accurately say.
Once all of the genders are determined, we will separate the males from the females. The females will be planted at our hop yard to determine their growth characteristics, while the males will remain at our second site so as not to produce any seeds in the females at our yard. The brewers would not be very happy with us if we allowed that to happen.
After letting the cones dry on the bines until they turned brown, we harvested them and put them into and ice cream bucket to finish drying. Now we are in the process of picking through them and finding all the seeds that were created from our female plant.
We will then cold stratify them for a period of time. After that, we will plant them in the early months of next year and the process will begin all over.
As more varieties are created and crossed, we hope to eventually find a cultivar that will perform well in the Mid-Atlantic so that we can share it with our fellow growers.
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