Tag Archives: alternative crops

Virginia Tech goes full steam ahead with hops research

Hop flowersWith more than 100 craft breweries, Virginia is quickly emerging as a significant player in the East Coast beer scene. Membership in the Old Dominion Hops Cooperative has grown from about 20 members to more than 80 over the past two years.

The burgeoning craft beer industry supports more than 8,000 jobs in the commonwealth and has a $623 million economic impact on the state, according to the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild.

And Virginia Tech is helping the commonwealth dive into the suds business. The university is currently conducting two studies — one examines the fermentation of hops, and the other studies the crop itself.

Holly Scoggins, associate professor of horticulture, is leading the research on the crop. She will head up the experimental hops yard that will be planted this fall with $8,900 in grant funding from the Virginia Agricultural Council. Scoggins is hoping to determine which hop varieties are best-suited to Virginia’s shorter summer days and most resistant to Mid-Atlantic pests.

“I’m excited,” said Scoggins. “There is a dearth of information out there, and we can be of service to our Extension agents who may get questions about hops production.”

A popular variety she plans to experiment with is Cascades.

Scoggins is also collaborating with faculty members from the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science to study downy mildew resistance in hops.

While the craft brewing industry is growing, Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic lag far behind in hops production. One acre of hops plants in Oregon produces between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds of dried hops. Meanwhile, the same variety grown in North Carolina yields 160 to 320 pounds of dried hops, according to research done by North Carolina State University.

Additional resources:

Posted in Agriculture, Food and Health | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Exploring how industrial hemp can benefit the commonwealth

U.S. retail sales of hemp-based products could exceed $300 million annually, according to industry reports.

Starting in the 2016 growing season, Virginia Tech will begin conducting research on a crop that was part of the very fabric of the Jamestown settlement and may once again become a part of the commonwealth’s agricultural portfolio: hemp.

Following a 2015 state law that allows institutions of higher education to grow industrial hemp for research purposes, the university began researching the manner in which the crop can be grown and assessing the economic impact it could have on the commonwealth.

“This is a great opportunity for the university to help farmers develop a new crop that can increase their revenues even further,” said Saied Mostaghimi, director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and associate dean of research and graduate studies for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “This is also a great example of how our researchers work in conjunction with Virginia Cooperative Extension to the benefit of the state.”

As it does with any new crops, the university will test growing conditions at various locations around the state to determine the best ways to plant, fertilize, and harvest hemp. For the first year, all planting will be done on university-owned or -managed land.
Once the critical agronomic factors are determined, the information the scientists glean will be shared with growers through Virginia Cooperative Extension.

At the same time, research will be conducted on potential uses for hemp, which could range from food supplements to biofuels. The crop’s economic impact on the state will also be assessed.

U.S. retail sales of hemp-based products could exceed $300 million annually, according to industry reports.

Most of the 55,700 metric tons of hemp produced around the world comes from China, Russia, and South Korea, so this program provides an opportunity for Virginia to enter a global market.

Posted in Agriculture | Tagged , , | 2 Comments