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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Hops Growing > Fertilizer burn on cones?
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Old 09-15-2013, 03:41 PM   #1
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Default Fertilizer burn on cones?

Hello, I'm new to hop growing. I apologize for the long post, I did not have time to write a short one.

I have a well established bed of Cascade hops. It is three years old now, however the first two years I left the patch go feral on me on account that I was not living on location and did not have the time I thought I would to care for them. Now I live on location.

Anyhow, the first year I planted my rhizomes I amended the soil with composted cow manure and humus. On the third year I reclaimed the 'wild' patch. I amended around the hills with some peat (very clay soil) but decided that I would just top dress the patch with espoma organic fertilizer. I did not scratch it into the soil. I applied it once late in may and then again over a month later.

Overall the hops were very vigorous and they are yielding what seems to be an insane amount. Its taking me a few days to pick them all. However I'm almost positive I yielded to late. The hops seem to be almost too pale. Some bractioles turned white. Some have turned brown from the bottom up and once in a while you find one that is dead: completely brown and crumbly. My understanding is that this is the natural - they are simply over ripe. The rest still smell great and have plenty of deep yellow lupulin glands. I don't detect any grassy tones when I handle/break them open, however the room they are drying in smells a bit 'leafy'. Do you guys notice a odor like this as your hops are drying? Or do they always smell sweet and fruity while they dry?

Transitioning into my main question, is this evidence of fertilizer burn on the cones? Notice the browning - not yellowing - USALLY originating from the top/midsection down. These (to me) look like crap - but mind you I picked the worst for example.

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Old 09-15-2013, 04:00 PM   #2
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Not generally. Your hops just look a little over-ripe. Browning, papery hops leaf bracts are a sign that the hops are peaking. Using organic fertilizers is a better way to go as they tend to be a mix of organic compost, manure, egg shells and the like. It's very hard to over-fertilize with them as they degrade and fertilize slowly into the soil over time. Unless you really piled on the fertilizer and watered every day, I wouldn't sweat it.

Your hops will smell a little green and grassy when first picked. If you cure them for a few days over a screen with a fan blowing gently over them, you'll get a lot of that grassy chlorophyll dried up. The leaves will turn papery and what internal stems are left will snap like popcorn. Once they reach that level of curing, they're perfect and ready for use or storage.

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Old 09-15-2013, 04:26 PM   #3
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That's a hard question to pinpoint an answer to. Allowing the plants to go unattended may have allowed a disease to fester during that time which may have increased the amount of potential inoculum in the area. If this is the case, every time the weather conditions arise that favor that particular disease, the likelihood of it becoming a problem will increase. This is one of the reasons to check your hops (or any crop for that matter) on a regular basis so the affected/diseased portions of the plants can be removed and some sort of action taken to help keep the problem in check. Sorry for not being much help but there are lots of things that cause browning on hops that require knowledge beyond the scope of this forum to properly diagnose: http://www.usahops.org/graphics/File...e_Browning.pdf

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Old 09-15-2013, 04:54 PM   #4
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OP, I'd be interested what you find as you research this. I am researching a similar situation myself.

I picked these this morning. I had a few that had gone almost completely brown. They went into the compost pile. This is the best of what's left. I was thinking that some had been allowed to over-ripen, or it could be the fact that the bine these came from are on a west-facing location. Oklahoma has brutal summers and in 5 years of trying to cultivate hops on various parts of my property, this is the first year I have had anything worth even attempting to dry.

Last summer was horribly hot and the small handful this bine yielded reeked of garlic. (These are Columbus by the way). This year, I get a little garlic, but more of the dank aroma I expect from Columbus.

I'm giving these a chance in the dehydrator. I was also wondering whether these are heat stressed, or whether it might be something more sinister.

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Old 09-16-2013, 02:42 PM   #5
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Thanks for all 'yalls input. Alternaria cone disorder might be the issue. Powdery mildew and Alternaria look very similar on the cones. However, powdery mildew also affects the leaves as well. From what I read Alternaria does not hit leaves - only cones. Alternaria is a opportunist that attacks senescent tissues or tissues damaged by insects, wind, ect. Therefore over ripe cones are probably a good target for this disease. Another point is that Alternaria is present in the air almost everywhere. My zinnias get it every year.

Winvarin - Have you seen this pdf? Its pretty handy.
http://ipm.wsu.edu/field/pdf/HopHandbook2010.pdf

I think I'm going to send a few of my worst hops to the university for testing. So many of these plant diseases look very similar. Despite all this, I undoubtedly yielded late and maybe that is simply what I'm seeing.

According to the above link Alternaria is rarely associated with hop yield/quality reduction and is considered a 'minor' disease. Based on these photos, what would you guys say about the marketability of my hops with my... issues? Would I just be embarrassing myself if I showed them to a brewer?

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Old 09-16-2013, 04:34 PM   #6
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That's a kick a** drying basket! DIY or purchased?

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Old 09-16-2013, 08:43 PM   #7
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Thanks! Purchased from a hydroponics shop. It has two more tiers that can be attached. This one is called the quickcure. Advertised for drying your 'herbs'. lol

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