Spring has arrived and despite the challenges in front of all of us, our appetite for growing, breeding and selecting hops is undiminished! Last year we had a record year for seedling plants surviving their first year of our selection process- 700!
Following on from this success, we made the decision to plant even more this year – a total of 18,000 seeds, every single one a potential new variety! The seeds are first chitted, to get them started, then planted in plastic trays with compost in our heated greenhouse.
The seedlings are grouped in trays of families, and allowed to grow on before we start to expose them to disease. 9 days later the seeds are growing on well.
Exposure to disease
Once established, we begin exposing them to disease. We start with Downy mildew, because once they’re exposed to a severe infection the plants which recover, and go on to thrive are the plants we want. This test alone can reduce the number of seedlings from 14-15000 to 1000. We will report back on how we get on!
At the same time as planting and assessing new varieties, we have other projects on the go! We are currently working with our growers on the use of cover crops. The idea is that instead of allowing weeds to grow between the rows, we could plant some other crops, which may be harvested, or used as a green manure.
Once established this will suppress weeds, and can be cut to provide a slow release fertiliser later in the season.