Lake Erie Regional Grape Program staff making short work of hop harvest using the mechanical hops harvester at CLEREL.

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Cornell Cooperative Extension

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County’s Lake Erie Regional Grape Program is excited to announce the opportunity to see hops harvest up close and personal.

If you have ever been curious as to how hops are harvested, the answer can be found at the LERGP Hopyard Walkabout on Tuesday, September 4, 2018. The walkabout will take place starting at 6 PM in the hopyards at the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory, 6592 West Main Road in Portland, NY. Participants of the walkabout will have the opportunity to learn how to determine when hops are ready to harvest and take a turn at hand harvesting hops to gain an understanding of why mechanized hops harvesters were invented. A demonstration of the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program’s HopsHarvester™ Hopster® portable Hop Picker will provide a look into how small-scale mechanized harvesters help many hop growers in New York get their crop off the bine. After the hop cones are harvested, they will be taken to the oast (hop dryer) to remove moisture to a level where the crop can be safely stored.

Tim Weigle, statewide grape and hops specialist with the NYS IPM Program, will discuss the hops research projects conducted at the lab in 2018. Alternative weed management protocols and biological control of twospotted spider mites are part of the project, “Developing a Sustainable Hops Integrated Pest Management Program from Greenhouse to Harvest” funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute.

The start of hops harvest will vary according to variety and can start as early as mid-August and run through the end of September. Pest pressure and nutrient levels of the bine can affect maturity, and therefore harvest date. Extensive feeding by twospotted spider mites can lead to early drying of the cones on the bine and force harvest to commence prior to full maturity of the crop. Controlling twospotted spider mites with predator mites and mite destroyers, a small black ladybeetle, has been part of the research project at CLEREL. Excessive fertilization can lead to a later harvest date due to the large amount of foliage it creates, while inadequate fertilization can lead to poor bine growth with low yield and early maturity. Weeds can out compete hop bines for water and nutrients and will create the same effects as not providing adequate fertilization to a bine. Because hops are considered a specialty crop and a limited number of acres are planted in New York State, there are very few options in the way of conventional herbicides for growers. Examining alternative weed management practices such as propane weed burners, hay mulch, and Green Hoe Company’s rotary cultivator provide answers to their effectiveness compared to herbicides. This project is one of the many funded by NYFVI to assist in the creation and sharing of knowledge that helps farms become more profitable.

The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program is a cooperative effort between Cornell and Penn State Universities; the participating Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations of Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara and Cattaraugus Counties in New York and Erie County in Pennsylvania; and participating industry partners National Grape Cooperative (Welch’s), Constellation Brands and Walkers Fruit Basket. The LERGP extension team provides research-based educational programming for commercial grape growers throughout the year at venues across the Lake Erie grape belt. For more information on LERGP, call 716-792-2800 or visit our website at lergp.cce.cornell.edu