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Spring Hop Yard Activities

Hop crowning is completed with specialized equipment attached to a field tractor.

Hop crowning, also referred to as "pruning", is a cultural practice that is used extensively by Oregon hop growers. The perennial hop plant emerges from dormancy during the early weeks of March, with many shoots growing from one single hop crown. The first shoots have an irregular growth rate and are usually the most undesirable for producing hop cones later in the season.

To correct this phenomenon, the cultural practice of crowning is used on numerous varieties in Oregon. Specialized equipment is used to "crown" (or cut) each hill so that it is even with the ground. The hop plant will then produce new shoots that will later be trained onto strings to begin its climb to the top of the 18-foot tall trellis system. A crude comparison of the equipment used to crown hops would be to that of lawn mower.

Crowning is also important because it removes the unwanted growth left behind after the previous season's harvest. An additional benefit of hop crowning is disease management. Both downy mildew and hop powdery mildew can overwinter on hop plants and infect the early spring shoots. Crowning removes the diseased shoots and can significantly reduce disease pressure later in the season.

Most of the hop yard is crowned mechanically, with the exception of the pole plants. These are the hops that are planted next to the hop poles that support the crisscrossing wires. The tractor and equipment cannot reach these plants, so they must be crowned by hand. Hand crowning is completed with the use of a shovel or a hoe.

Uncrowned hop plant
Crowned hop plant

 

 

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