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Hop Cultivation

HOP CULTIVATION As the county of Kent has always taken the lead in hopgrowing in England, and as it includes about two-thirds of the hop acreage of the British Isles, the recent developments in hop cultivation cannot be better studied than in that county. They were well summarized by Mr Charles Whitehead in his sketch of the agriculture of Kent, 1 wherein he states that the hop grounds or hop gardens, as they are called in Kent of 1 Jour'. Roy. Agric. Soc 1899.

poor character and least suitable for hop production have been gradually grubbed since 1894, on account of large crops, the importation of hops and low prices. At the beginning of the 19th century there were 290 parishes in Kent in which hops were cultivated. A century later, out of the 413 parishes in the county, as many as 331 included hop plantations. The hops grown in Kent are classified in the markets as " East Kents," " Bastard East Kents," " Mid Kents " and " Wealds," according to the district of the county in which they are produced. The relative values of these four divisions follow in the same order, East Kents making the highest and Wealds the lowest rates. These divisions agree in the main with those defined by geological formations. Thus, " East Kents " are grown upon the Chalk, and especially on the outcrop of the soils of the London Tertiaries upon the Chalk. " Bastard East Kents " are produced on alluvial soil and soils formed by admixtures of loam, clayloams, chalk, marl and clay from the Gault, Greensand and Chalk formations. " Mid Kents " are derived principally from the Greensand soils and outcrops of the London Tertiaries in the upper part of the district. " Wealds " come from soils on the Weald Clay, Hastings Sand and Tunbridge Wells Sand. As each " pocket " of hops must be marked with the owner's name and the parish in which they were grown, buyers of hops can, without much trouble, ascertain from which of the four divisions hops come, especially if they have the map of the hop-growing parishes of England, which gives the name of each parish. There has been a considerable rearrangement of the hop plantations in Kent within recent years. Common varieties as Colegate's, Jones's, Grapes and Prolifics have been grubbed, and Goldings, Bramlings and other choice kinds planted in their places. The variety known as Fuggle's, a heavy-cropping though slightly coarse hop, has been much planted in the Weald of Kent, and in parts of Mid Kent where the soil is suitable. In very old hop gardens, where there has been no change of plant for fifty or even one hundred years in some instances, except from the gradual process of filling up the places of plants that have died, there has been replanting with better varieties and varieties ripening in more convenient succession; and, generally speaking, the plantations have been levelled up in this respect to suit the demand for bright hops of fine quality. A recent classification 2 of the varieties of English hops arranges them in three groups: (i) early varieties (e.g. Prolific, Bramling, Amos's Early Bird); (2) mid-season or main-crop varieties (e.g. Farnham Whitebine, Fuggle's, Old Jones's, Golding); (3) late varieties (e.g. Grapes, Colgate's).

The cost of cultivating and preparing the produce of an acre of hop land tends to increase, on account of the advancing rates of wages, the intense cultivation more and more essential, and the necessity of freeing the plants from the persistent attacks of insects and fungi. In 1893 Mr Whitehead estimated the average annual cost of an acre of hop land to be 35, ios., the following being the items:

Manure (winter and summer) 6100 Digging o 19 o Dressing (or cutting) . 060 Poling, tying, earthing, ladder-tying, stringing, lewing 230 Shimming, nidgeting, digging round and hoeing hills 300 Stacking, stripping, making bines, etc. . . . o 17 o Annual renewal of poles 2 10 o Expense of picking, drying, packing, carriage, sampling, selling, etc., on average crop of, say, 7 cwt. per acre 105 Rent, rates, taxes, repairs of oast and tacks, interest on capital , 600 Sulphuring 100 Washing (often two, three or four times) ... 200 Total . . . 35 JO o Seven years later the average cost per acre in Kent had risen to quite 37.

2 J. Percival, " The Hop and its English Varieties," Jour, Roy. Agric. Soc., 1901.

The hops in Kent are usually planted in October or November, the plants being 6 ft. apart each way, thus giving 1210 hills or plant-centres per acre. Some planters still grow potatoes or mangels between the rows the first year, as the plants do not bear much until the second year; but this is considered to be a mistake, as it encourages wire-worm and exhausts the ground. Many planters pole hop plants the first year with a single short pole, and stretch coco-nut-fibre string from pole to pole, and grow many hops in the first season. Much of the hop land is ploughed between the rows, as labour is scarce, and the spaces between are dug afterwards. It is far better to dig hop land if possible, the tool used being the Kent spud. The cost of digging an acre ranges from i8s. to 2is. Hop land is ploughed or dug between November and March. After this the plants " dressed," which means that all the old bine ends are cut off with a sharp curved hop-knife, and the plant centres kept level with the ground.

Manuring. Manure is applied in the winter, and dug or ploughed in. London manure from stables is used to an enormous extent. It comes by barge or rail, and is brought from the wharves and stations by traction engines; it costs from 7s. 6d. to 95. per load. Rags, fur waste, sprats, wool waste and shoddy are also put on in the winter. In the summer, rape dust, guano, nitrate of soda and various patent hop manures are chopped in with the Canterbury hoe. Fish guano or desiccated fish is largely used; it is very stimulating and more lasting than some of the other forcing manures.

The recent investigations into the subject of hop-manuring made by Dr Bernard Dyer and Mr F. W. E. Shrivell, at Golden Green, near Tonbridge, Kent, are of interest. In the 1901 report * it was stated that the object in view was to ascertain how far nitrate of soda, in the presence of an abundant supply of phosphates and potash, is capable of being advantageously used as a source of nitrogenous food for hops. An idea long persisted among hop-growers that nitrate of soda was an unsafe manure for hops, being likely to produce rank growth of bine at the expense of quality and even quantity of hops. During recent years, however, owing very largely to the results of Weight of Kiln-dried Fuggle's Hops per Acre.

In only one year did the very large dressing of 10 cwt. of nitrate of soda per acre afford any better result than was produced by the less heavy dressing of 8 cwt. per acre, and this was in 1899, a season of such abundance and such low prices that it may be regarded as an abnormal season. If the effect of this one season on the average be eliminated, the best results, as regards quantity, were obtained on plot E, receiving 8 cwt. of nitrate of soda per acre. But plot C, with 4 cwt. only of nitrate of soda per acre, has been on the average not more than J cwt. per acre behind plot E.

Valuations of the hops made by merchants and factors show that, on the whole, the market quality of the produce is very little affected by manuring. Moreover, chemical investigation of the hops appears to indicate that the brewing quality is not in any constant or definite way influenced by the manuring, except where the quantity of nitrate of soda has amounted to the large dressing of 8 cwt. or more per acre, a quantity which in some seasons would seem to have been prejudicial, although in one season it happened that the highest brewing value appertained to a sample grown with as much as 10 cwt. per acre.

The results of modern investigation show that it is very largely to the presence and proportion of soft resin that hops owe their preservative value, although the quality of hops is by no means wholly dependent on this one feature. The resin percentages on the samples grown on the several plots in 1898, 1899 and 1900 were the following :

9 8 )O Total Resin.

Soft Resin.

Total Resin.

Soft Resin.

Total Resin.

Soft Resin.

Phosphates and potash . . ' .

Per Cent. 14-15 Per Cent. 9-21 Per Cent. 15-07 Per Cent. 8-60 Per Cent. 14-53 Per Cent. 8-90 C D E F X Phosphates, potash and 2 cwt. nitrate of soda Phosphates, potash and 4 cwt. nitrate of soda Phosphates, potash and 6 cwt. nitrate of soda Phosphates, potash and 8 cwt. nitrate of soda Phosphates, potash and 10 cwt. nitrate of soda 30 loads (about 1 5 tons) London dung .

14-30 14-06 13-57 14-11 12-21 13-93 9-20 9-04 8-60 8-85 7-91 8-66 16-59 I5-87 14-90 14-49 15-47 14-92 8-83 9-27 8-70 8-96 9-41 8-80 15-09 14-46 13-46 I3-30 12-77 14-78 8-51 8-16 7-62 7-18 6-77 9-07 these experiments, and of corresponding experiments based upon these, which have been carried out abroad, hop farmers have much more freely availed themselves of the aid of this useful manure; and there is little doubt that the distrust of nitrate of soda as a hop manure which has existed in the past has been largely due to the fact that nitrate of soda, like many other nitrogenous manures, has often been misused (i) by being applied without a sufficient quantity of phosphates and potash, or (2) by being applied too abundantly, or (3) by being applied too late in the season, with the result of unduly delaying the ripening period. On most of the experimental plots nitrate of soda (in conjunction with phosphates and potash) has been used as the sole source of nitrogen; but it is, of course, not be to supposed that any hop-grower would use year after year, as is the case on some of the plots, nothing but phosphates, potash and nitrate of soda. Miscellaneous feeding is probably good for plants as well as for animals, and there is a large variety of nitrogenous manures at the disposal of the hop-farmer, to say nothing of what, in its place, is one of the most valuable of all manures, namely, home-made dung. These experiments were begun in 1894 with a new garden of young Fuggle's hops. A series of experimental plots was marked out, each plot being one-sixth of an acre in area. The plots run parallel with one another, there being four rows of hills in each. The climate of the district is very dry.

The table given above shows the annual yield of hops per acre on each plot, and also the average for each plot over the five years 1896-1900.

1 Six Years' Experiments on Hop Manuring (London, 1901).

The general results seem to show that the purchase of town dung for hops is not economical, unless under' specially favourable terms as to cost of conveyance, and that it should certainly not be relied upon as a sufficient manure. Home-made dung is in quite a different position, as not only is it richer, but it costs nothing for railway carriage. As a source of nitrogenous manure, purchased dung is on the whole too expensive. There is a large variety of other nitrogenous manures in the market besides nitrate ot soda, such, for instance as Peruvian and Damaraland guano, sulphate of ammonia, fish guano, dried blood, rape dust, furriers' refuse, horn shavings, hoof parings, wool dust, shoddy, etc. All of these may in turn be used for helping to maintain a stock of nitrogen in the soil ; and the degree to which manures of this kind have been recently applied in any hop garden will influence the grower in deciding as to the quantity of nitrate of soda he should use in conjunction with them, and also to some extent in fixing the date of its application.

Dressings of 8 or 10 cwt. of nitrate of soda per acre, such as are applied annually to plots E and F, would be larger than would be put on where the land has been already dressed with dung or with other nitrogenous manures; and even, in the circumstances under notice, although these plots have on the average beaten the others in weight, the hops in some seasons have been distinctly coarser than those more moderately manured though in the dry season of 1899 the most heavily dressed plot gave actually the best quality as well as the greatest quantity of produce.

With regard to the application of nitrate of soda in case the season should turn out to be wet, present experience indicates that, on a soil otherwise liberally manured, 4 cwt.' of nitrate of soda per acre applied not too late, would be a thoroughly safe dressing. In the case of neither dung nor any other nitrogenous fertilizers having been recently applied, there seems no reason for supposing that, even in a wet season, 6 cwt. of nitrate of soda per acre applied early would be otherwise than a safe dressing, considering both quantity and quality of produce. In conjunction with dung, or with the early use of other nitrogenous manures, such as fish, guano, rape dust, etc. it would probably be wise not to exceed 4 cwt. of nitrate of soda per acre.

As to the date of application, April or May is the latest time at which nitrate of soda should, in most circumstances, be applied, and probably April is preferable to May. The quantity used should be applied in separate dressings of not more than 2 cwt. per acre each, put on at intervals of a month Where the quantity of nitrate of soda used is large, and constitutes the whole of the nitrogenous manure empjoyed, the first dressing may, on fairly deep and retentive soils, be given as early as January; or, if the quantity used is smaller, say in February; while February will, in most cases, probably be early enough for the first dressing in the case of lighter soils. The condition of the soil and the degree and distribution of rainfall during both the previous autumn and the winter, as well as in the spring itself, produce such varying conditions that it is almost impossible to frame general rules.

The commonly accepted notion that nitrate of soda is a manure which should be reserved for use during the later period of the growth of the bine appears to be erroneous. The summer months, when the growth of the bine is most active, are the months in which natural nitrification is going on in the soil, converting soil nitrogen and the nitrogen of dung, guano, fish, rape dust, shoddy or other fertilizers into nitrates, and placing this nitrogen at the disposal of the plants; and it appears reasonable, therefore, to suppose that nitrate of soda will be most useful to the hops at the earlier stages of their growth, before the products of that nitrification become abundant. This would especially be so in a season immediately following a wet autumn and winter, which have the effect of washing away into the drains the residual nitrates not utilized by the previous crop.

The necessity, whether dung is used or not, and whatever form of nitrogenous manure is employed, of also supplying the hops with an abundance of phosphates, cannot be too strongly urged. The use of phosphates for hops was long neglected by hop-planters, and even now there are many growers who do not realize the full importance of heavy phosphatic manuring. On soils containing an abundance of lime no better or cheaper phosphatic manure can be used than ordinary superphosphate, of which as much as 10 cwt. per acre may be applied without the slightest fear of harm. But if the soil is not decidedly calcareous that is to say, if it does not effervesce when it is stirred up with some diluted hydrochloric (muriatic) acid bone dust, phosphatic guano or basic slag should be used as a source of phosphates, at the rate of not less than 10 cwt. per acre. On medium soils, which, without being distinctly calcareous, nevertheless contain a just appreciable quantity of carbonate of lime, it is probably a good plan to use the latter class of manures, alternately with superphosphate, year and year about; but it is wise policy to use phosphates in some form or other every year in every hop garden. They are inexpensive, and without them neither dung, nitrate of soda, ammonia salts nor organic manures can be expected to produce both a full vigorous growth of bine and at the same time a well-matured crop of full-weighted, well-conditioned hops.

The use of potash salts, on most soils, is probably not needed when good dung is freely used ; but where this is not the case it is safer in most seasons and on most soils to give a dressing of potash salts. On some soils their aid should on no account be dispensed with.

Experiments in hop-manuring have also been conducted in connexion with the South-Eastern Agricultural College, Wye, Kent. The main results have been to demonstrate the necessity of a liberal supply of phosphates, if the full benefit is to be reaped from applications of nitrogenous manure.

Tying, Poling and Picking. Tying the bines to the poles or strings is essentially women's work. It was formerly always piecework, each woman taking so many acres to tie, but it is found better to pay the women is. 8d. to 23. per day, that they may all work together, and tie the plants in those grounds where they want tying at once. The new modes of poling and training hop plants have also altered the conditions of tying.

Many improvements have been made in the methods of poling and training hops. Formerly two or three poles were placed to each hop-hill or plant-centre in the spring, and removed in the winter, and this was the only mode of training. . Recently systems of training on wires and strings fastened to permanent upright poles have been introduced. One arrangement of wires and strings much adopted consists of stout posts set at the end of every row of hop-hills and fastened with stays to keep them in place. At intervals in each row a thick pole is fixed. From post to post in the rows a wire is stretched at a height of f ft. from the ground, another about 6 ft. from the ground, and another along the tops of the posts, so that there are three wires. Hooks are clipped on these wires at regular intervals, and coco- nutfibre strings are threaded on them and fastened from wire to wire, and from post to post, to receive the hop bines. The string is threaded on the hooks continuously, and is put on those of the top wire with a machine called a stringer. There are several methods of training hops with posts or stout poles, wire and string, whose first cost varies from 20 to 40 per acre. The system is cheaper in the long run than that of taking down the poles every year, and the wind does not blow down the poles or injure the hops by banging the poles together. ' In another method, extensively made use of in Kent and Sussex, stout posts are placed at the ends of each row of plants, and, at intervals where requisite, wires are fastened from top to top only of these posts, whilst coco-nut-fibre strings are fixed by pegs to the ground, close to each hop-stock, whence they radiate upwards for attachment to the wires stretching between the tops of the posts. This method is more simple and less expensive than the system first described, its cost being from 24 to 28 per acre. In this case the plants require to be well " lewed," or sheltered, as the strings being so light are blown about by the wind. These methods are being largely adopted, and, together with the practice of putting coco-nut-fibre strings from pole to pole in grounds poled in the old-fashioned manner, are important improvements in hop culture, which have tended to increase the production of hops. Where the old system of poling with two or three poles is still adhered to they are always creosoted, most growers having tanks for the purpose; and, in the new methods of poling, the posts and poles are creosoted, dipped or kyanized.

At Wye College, Kent, different systems of planting and training have been tried, the alleys varying in width from 10 ft. down to 5 ft., and the distance between the hills varying quite as widely, so that the number of hills to the acre has ranged from 1 2 10 down to 660. The biggest crop was secured on the plot where hills were 8 ft. apart each way. As a rule, indeed, a wide alley and abundant space between the plants, thus allowing the hops plenty of air and light, produced the best results, besides effecting some saving in the cost of cultivation, as there were only 660 or 680 hills per acre. Of the various methods of training, the umbrella system gave the biggest crop in each of the three years,i8p9, 1900, 1901; and it seemed to be the best method, except in seasons when washing was required early, in which case the plants were not so readily cleared of vermin.

Much attention is required to keep the bines in their places on the poles, strings or wire, during the summer. This gives employment to many women, for whose service in this and fruitpicking there is considerable demand, and a woman has no trouble in earning from is. 6d. to is. lod. per day from April till September at pleasant and not very arduous labour. The hop-picking follows, and at this women sometimes get 43. and even 53. per day. This is the real Kent harvest, which formerly lasted a month or five weeks. Now it rarely extends beyond eighteen days, as it is important to secure the hops before the weather and the aphides, which almost invariably swarm within the bracts of the cones, discolour them and spoil their sale, as brewers insist upon having bright, " coloury " hops. Picking is better done than was formerly the case. The hops are picked more singly, and with comparatively few leaves, and the pickers are of a somewhat better type than the rough hordes who formerly went into Kent for " hopping." Kent planters engage their pickers beforehand, and write to them, arranging the numbers required and the date of picking. Many families go into Kent for pea-and fruit-picking and remain for hop-picking. Without this great immigration of persons, variously estimated at between 45,000 and 65,000, the crops of hops could not be picked; and fruit-farmers also would be unable to get their soft fruit gathered in time without the help of immigrant hands. The fruit-growers and hop-planters of Kent have greatly improved the accommodation for these immigrants.

Concerning the general question as to the advisability or otherwise of cutting the hop bine at the time of picking, A.D.

Hall has ascertained experimentally that if the bine is cut close to the ground at a time when the whole plant is unripe there are removed in the bine and leaves considerable quantities of nitrogen, potash and phosphoric acid which would have returned to the roots if the bine had not been cut until ripe. The plant, therefore, would retain a substantial store of these constituents for the following year's growth if the bine were left. Chemical analyses have shown that about 30 Ib of nitrogen per acre may be saved by allowing the jbines to remain uncut, this representing practically one-third of the total amount of nitrogen in -the hops, leaf and bine together. There are also from 25 Ib to 30 Ib of potash in the growth, of which nine-tenths would return to the roots, with about half the phosphoric acid and a very small proportion of the lime. It has been demonstrated that by the practice of. cutting the bines when the hops are picked the succeeding crop is lessened to the extent of about one-tenth. As to stripping off the leaves and lower branches of the plant, it was found that this operation once reduced the crop 10 % and once 20 %, but that in the year 1899 it did not affect the crop at all. The inference appears to be that when there is a good crop it is not reduced by stripping, but that when there is less vigour in the plant it suffers the more. Hence, it would seem advisable to study the plant itself in connexion with this matter, and to strip a little later, or somewhat less, than usual when the bine is not healthy.

Drying. After being picked, the hops are taken in pokes long sacks holding ten bushels to the oasts to be dried. The oasts are circular or square kilns, or groups of kilns, wherein the green hops are laid upon floors covered with horsehair, under which are enclosed or open stoves or furnaces. The heat from these is evenly distributed among the hops above by draughts below and round them. This is the usual simple arrangement, but patent processes are adopted here and there, though they are by no means general. The hops are from nine to ten hours drying, after which they are taken off the kiln and allowed to cool somewhat, and are then packed tightly into " pockets " 6 ft. long and 2 ft. wide, weighing i| cwt, by means of a hop-pressing machine, which has cogs and wheels worked by hand. Of late years more care has been bestowed by some of the leading growers upon the drying of hops, so as to preserve their qualities and volatile essences, and to meet the altered requirements of brewers, who must have bright, well-managed hops for the production of light clear beers for quick draught. The use, for example, of exhaust fans, recently introduced, greatly facilitates drying by drawing, a large volume of air through the hops; and as the temperature may at the same time be kept low, the risk of getting overfired samples is considerably reduced, though not entirely obviated. The adoption of the roller floor is another great advance in the process of hop-drying, for this, used in conjunction with a raised platform for the men to stand on when turning, prevents any damage from the feet of the workmen, and reduces the loss of resin to a minimum. The best results are obtained when exhaust fans and the roller floor are associated together. In such cases the roller floor, which empties its load automatically, pours the hop cones into the receiving sheets in usually as whole and unbroken a condition as that in which they went on to the kiln.

Pests of the Hop Crop. In recent years the difficulties attendant upon hop cultivation have been aggravated, and the expenses increased, by regularly recurring attacks of aphis blight due to the insect A phis (Phorodon) humuli which render it necessary to spray or syringe every hop plant, every branch and leaf, with insectfcidal solutions three or four times, and sometimes more often, in each season. Quassia and soft-soap solutions are usually employed; they contain from 4 Ib to 8 Ib of soft soap, and the extract of from 8 Ib to 10 Ib of quassia chips to 100 gallons of water. The soft soap serves as a vehicle to retain the bitterness of the quassia upon the bines and leaves, making them repulsive to the aphides, which are thus starved out. Another pest, the red spider, Tetranychus telarius really one of the " spinning mites " is most destructive in very hot summers. Congregating on the under surfaces of the leaves, the red spiders exhaust the sap and cause the leaves to fall, producing the effect known in Germany as " fire-blast." The hop-wash of soft soap and quassia, so effective against aphis attack, is of little avail in the case of red spider. Some success, however, has attended the use of a solution containing 8 ft to 10 ft of soft soap to loo gallons of water, with three pints of paraffin added. It is necessary to apply the washes with great force, in order to break through the webs with which the spiders protect themselves. Hop-washing is done by means of large garden engines worked by hand, but more frequently with horse engines. Resort is sometimes had to steam engines, which force the spraying solution along pipes laid between the rows of hops.

Mould or mildew is frequently the source of much loss to hopplanters. It is due to the action of the fungus Podosphaera castagnei, and the mischief is more especially that done to the cones. The only trustworthy remedy is sulphur, employed usually in the form of flowers of sulphur, from 40 Ib to 60 ft per acre being applied at each sulphuring. The powder is distributed by means of a machine drawn by a horse between the rows. The sulphur is fed from a hopper into a blast-pipe, whence it is driven by a fan actuated by the travelling wheels, and falls as a dense, wide-spreading cloud upon the hop-bines. The first sulphuring takes place when the plants are fairly up the poles, and is repeated three or four weeks later; and even again if indications of mildew are present. It may be added that sulphur is also successfully employed in the form of an alkaline sulphide, such as solution of " liver of sulphur," a variety of potassium sulphide. (\y. FR.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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