Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Ohio hops growers experienced strong demand in 2015 for the specialty crop used as a key ingredient in craft beers, and, experts say, the demand isn’t likely to decline soon.Hops is a main ingredient beer manufacturers use to provide bitterness to balance the sweetness of malt sugars in their product.“Ten years ago, you could count all of Ohio’s breweries on your fingers and toes, ears and nose,” said Brad Bergefurd, a horticulturist with the Ohio State University South Centers at Piketon. “However, in 2015, there were more than 150 licensed breweries statewide to feed the demand for locally brewed craft beer.“To meet this growing demand, an estimated 6,000 acres of hops are required by Ohio craft brewers at current use rates. As of 2015, Ohio only had an estimated 200 acres of hops planted.”As more Ohio-based craft brewers seek to procure hops grown locally, interest in growing these crops continues to rise among both established and potential hops growers statewide, Bergefurd said, especially since the income potential for hops growers is significant thanks to industry demand.To help new growers learn how to get started growing both hops and malting barley in Ohio, a two-day Ohio Hops and Malting Barley Conference and Trade Show will be held Feb. 24-25 at Fisher Auditorium, 1680 Madison Ave., in Wooster on the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center campus.The workshop will feature detailed information on the latest in hops and malting barley production, including mechanical harvesting, processing, malting and pelletizing, Bergefurd said.The conference is for both beginning and advanced hops and malting barley growers and anyone interested in growing these crops to meet the increasing demand for a rapidly expanding industry, he said.“According to data from the Brewer’s Association, on average 1.5 new craft breweries are opening each day, representing a return to the localization of beer production,” Bergefurd said. “A majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a local brewery, providing farms with a local market for their farm-raised hops.”The conference will include a two-day trade show.The event will feature horticulture experts with Ohio State University Extension, OARDC and OSU South Centers as well as other agricultural industry professionals. Bergefurd and Mary Gardiner, an Ohio State entomologist, will host the workshop.Workshop topics will include topics such as planning to make your hops farm profitable, how brewers select their hops, managing diseases in the hops yard, identifying and managing hops pests, and weed and herbicide management.Conference participants will be able to meet some of Ohio’s best hops growers and learn how to take advantage of hops mechanical harvesters, processing and pelletizing operations that have been formed and are available for Ohio hops growers, Bergefurd said.Because of a U.S. Department of Agriculture/Ohio Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant, OSU Extension researchers, including Bergefurd and Gardiner, have developed a hops development program focused on profitable production and marketing.“Over 100 licensed Ohio beer manufacturers and thousands of home brewers send about $30 million in hops purchases and related jobs out of Ohio by buying flowers of the hop plant, called hop cones or hops, from out of state,” Bergefurd said. “Our research is designed to increase Ohio hops production and keep some of that income in Ohio.”Registration for the conference is $175 for both days or $100 for one day. Registration includes a spiral-bound booklet, a flash drive with conference presentations, snacks and beverages. The Feb. 24 banquet is an additional cost of $50 per person. The deadline to register for the conference is Feb. 5.For more information on the conference, contact Bergefurd at 740-289-2071, ext. 136, or [email protected], or Charissa Gardner at 740-289-2071, ext. 132.To register and to find the conference’s full agenda, go to go.osu.edu/OhioHopsAndBarleyConference. Those interested in being a vendor for the conference trade show can also find information there.