The Hop-growing Year: Spring Work*
The trellis construction has to stand up to all kinds of weather. The structure must bear the whole weight of the hops. A fully grown hop hill shortly before the harvest weighs about 40 tons/ha. By absorbing water when it rains and the effects of wind (storms!) this weight can increase up to 100 tons. Hop trellises are 7 metres high. 110 wooden masts pro hectare support a wire net which is anchored at the sides in the ground. The wooden masts (mostly spruce or pine) are treated with impregnating salt or tar oil so they are protected from the effects of the weather. Approx. 5 dt/ha steel cord and 5.5 dt/ha steel barbed wire are needed for the wire netting. All in all a trellis construction costs about 11,000 euros per hectare and lasts approx. 30 years.
Uncovering and pruning the rootstock
The first work in the spring is to uncover and prune the rootstocks. The soil has to be well dried out for this work which the hop-grower calls abutting. Years ago it was hard manual work to uncover the rootstocks with a hoe and to cut them with a knife. Nowadays pruners and cutters especially designed for this purpose are used.
It should be a clean cut as only then is it possible to close the wound. Healthy cutting areas are white, if they are brown (sign of crown rot) it is recommended that they are treated for crown rot. If possible autumn cutting should be avoided.
Abutting and cutting in one operation
There are new cutters on the market which have two discs in front of the cutter for abutting. Therefore the cutting can be done in one operation without previous abutting.
There are 3,500 - 4,000 hop hills per hectare depending on the variety. Two training wires have to be attached annually for each hop plant. To do this a so-called crow's nest is fastened to the front-loader of the tractor. With the help of this crow's nest 2-3 workers can fasten the training wire on the wire netting at a height of 7 metres. Afterwards three people anchor the wire in the ground. A knot is made and is inserted into the ground with a hook. A team like this fastens 8,000 - 10,000 wires per day.
Trials have shown that generally training at an oblique angle only makes extra work in retraining but does not result in a higher yield..
* © Source: LfL- Bayerische Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft