UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s growing brewing industry generates $1.9 billion for the state’s economy, and that also means increased demand for locally grown hops, one of the key ingredients in beer-making.
Beer enthusiasts, brewers and farmers looking for a new source of income can learn about hops production and varieties by taking the Hops Research and Hopyard Tour during Penn State’s Ag Progress Days, Aug. 14-16.
The tour is one of nine offered during the event to highlight research and best practices in farming, conservation and natural resources. All Ag Progress Days tours are free but require tickets, which can be obtained at the departure point at the corn crib near the top of Main Street.
Hops is a vine-like perennial plant that produces cone-shaped flowers, which are used to add flavor and/or bitterness to beer. More than a century ago, Pennsylvania was a prolific hops producer, but in the late 1800s, plant diseases such as powdery and downy mildews spread through hopyards in the state, leading to a rapid decline in production. Since then, research and new technologies have led to hops varieties that can grow well in Pennsylvania.
Visitors who take the one-hour Hops Research and Hopyard Tour will visit Penn State’s hopyard, see equipment used in small-scale hops production, and learn about efforts to evaluate hops varieties for yield and quality characteristics. The tour leaves at 1 p.m. daily.
Other Ag Progress Days tours, many of which involve some walking or standing, include the following:
- American Chestnut Foundation Plantings (1.25 hours). See American chestnut breeding orchards, learn about the history and demise of the American chestnut tree, find out how to plant and maintain chestnut trees, and learn how American Chestnut Foundation citizen scientists are working to restore the species. The tour will leave at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, at 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, and at 10 a.m. Thursday.
- High Tunnel Research and Extension Facility (2 hours). High tunnels are inexpensive structures used for extending the growing season and improving yields and quality of vegetables, berries and cut flowers. See strawberries and raspberries growing in containers in 15 tunnels, with five different types of plastics to better manage plant growth, temperatures and pests. The tour is offered at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily.
- Managing Equine and Livestock Pastures to Improve Soil Health (1.5 hours). See paddock-fencing/watering-system components and find out how field practices and cover crop mixes can affect rooting structure and soil health indicators. The tour will focus on improved pasture methods for managing horses on limited acreage; adaptive cattle grazing methods, including the use of tall grass, high density grazing and diverse cover crops; and soil health principles for both cropping and livestock operations. Buses leave at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. daily, with additional tours at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Multifunctional Stream Buffers and Native Grasses (1 hour). Learn how planting and maintaining trees, shrubs and grasses to create a multifunctional stream buffer can improve water quality, wildlife and pollinator habitat, livestock health, and property value, while providing edible or medicinal plants. Demonstration livestock practices such as fencing and stream crossings will be on display. This tour leaves at 11:30 a.m. daily.
- Woodlot Management: Decisions and Actions (1.5 hours). Explore the Penn State Demonstration Forest and gain valuable insights into how woods are managed for timber production, wildlife habitat, water quality, recreational activities, research and education. Forestry and wildlife professionals will be on hand to answer questions. The tour leaves at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily.
- Habitat Management for Deer and Other Wildlife (1.5 hours). See how food plots and natural habitat management practices used on public or private property as part of a Quality Deer Management System can improve habitat for many wildlife species while producing healthier and larger deer. Buses leave at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. daily, with an additional tour at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
- Dairy Beef Feedlot (1 hour). Get information on the use of implants in beef production, specifically focused on how implants affect feed efficiency. See GrowSafe Feed Intake Systems technology at work to evaluate individual animal intake and better understand feed efficiency and meal patterns in cattle. Buses leave at 10 a.m. and noon daily, with additional tours at 2 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Russell Larson Research Center Farms. See each of the farms at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center. Farm managers will present a brief overview of the farm history, current research, and student involvement and will answer visitors’ questions. The tour leaves at 11 a.m. daily, with additional tours at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Sponsored by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 14; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 15; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 16. Admission and parking are free.
For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogressdays, and the event also can be found on Facebook (@AgProgressDays).