Hop shoots, also known as cannabis-related plants, are characterized by their green cone-shaped flowers. In the past, these shoots were cultivated in Himachal Pradesh, but unfortunately, hop shoots farming was abandoned due to a lack of marketing opportunities for the produce.
Hop shoots have gained recognition for their exceptional qualities, including their antibacterial and therapeutic properties. They are utilized in the production of various beverages, such as beer, as well as antibiotics and other medicinal applications. The plant's blossoms, fruits, and stems are employed in these processes. Notably, the hop cones, or strobiles, obtained from the plant, play a crucial role in beer production as they act as stability agents, balancing the sweetness of the beverage.
Moreover, the stalks of the hop plant have shown significant effectiveness in tuberculosis therapy (TB). Hop shoots also play a vital role in cancer treatment, particularly in preventing the emergence of leukemia. Certain hop acids, such as humulones and lupulones, have been found to be effective in combating this bone-related condition. Furthermore, hops shoots offer several medicinal benefits. They aid in digestion, promote relaxation for individuals dealing with depression or anxiety, act as analgesics, and assist with sleeplessness.
In European countries, the use of hop shoots for maintaining youthful, natural, and radiant skin is widely popular. This is due to the high antioxidant content found in hop shoots, which helps cleanse and enhance the skin's appearance. These antioxidants contribute to keeping the skin gleaming and healthy.
In this article, we will look at how to grow Hop Shoots in India. So, let’s get started.
Sowing, Growing, and Harvesting Hop Shoots
Hop shoots farming in India requires careful consideration of various technical factors. Let's delve into these factors to ensure the highest quality hop shoots cultivation.
1. Ideal Climate
Hop shoots farming in India thrives in a range of climatic conditions, as long as the moisture content is sufficient. When cultivating hops in India, it's important to ensure:
- A minimum of 120 frost-free days.
- Adequate rainfall, which can be supplemented with watering or irrigation.
- Optimal warm and sunny days for the growth of hop shoots.
Hop plants germinate in March, and cultivation typically occurs north of 35°N or south of 35°S latitude. These plants have a dormant phase of 5-6 weeks in sub-zero temperatures. However, hop crowns can withstand temperatures up to -25°C when covered in snow.
2. Soil Requirements
Loamy and well-drained soil is ideal for hops cultivation. The Ideal pH level for crop growth is between 6 and 7.0. If you add legume cover crops and some compost it can provide the necessary nutrients. Hop shoots cultivation requires up to 200 lbs (224kg/ha) of nitrogen in a short window of about 6 weeks.
3. Plantation of Hop Shoots
Choosing an ideal site is crucial for growing quality hops. These plants require 6-8 hours of sunlight exposure each day. East and west-facing sites are preferable for producing high-quality yields. Adding shelterbelts is necessary to protect the hops from strong winds.
The place of these plants should be 10-20 feet apart vertically and have vertical support. Since hop plants can be heavy, secure the twine with some weight. Additionally, Rhizomes are sensitive to early spring frosts and should be planted when the soil is ready. Mulching the hop hills adequately protects the rhizomes from very cold temperatures. Refrigerating the rhizomes before planting can yield better results. To stop overcrowding, plant the cultivars 3 feet apart and different cultivars 5 feet apart. Implement pest and mold management strategies as hop plants are prone to these issues. Be cautious about overwatering, as it can lead to failing root bines.
4. Irrigation Requirements for Hops
Fertile, well-drained soil is highly favorable for hop crowns. The crowns may require frequent watering, but excessive moisture and flooding should be avoided. Drip irrigation is an effective method for providing moderate water to crops without flooding.
5. Propagation of Hop Shoots
Propagation of hop plants involves digging the crown in early spring and harvesting the rhizomes from the rootstalk. Matured crowns produce numerous shoots beneath the ground, most with buds, which can be replanted to generate new bines.
Pro tip: Extract rhizomes from fully matured and established 3-year-old crowns.
Hop plants are propagated from runners that extend from the crowns on the soil surface. Cut the runners into 6-8 pieces, each containing at least 2 sets of buds. Plant the cuttings immediately or store them in cool, moist, and well-ventilated places if planting immediately is not possible. Avoid planting diseased, damaged, or underdeveloped cuttings.
6. Fertilizer and Manure in Organic Hop Shoots Cultivation
Hop shoots farming in India requires proper nutrition and fertilizer for quality yields. Nitrogen promotes the growth of green and leafy plants, while balanced use of phosphorus and potassium contributes to high-quality hop shoots. The soil should contain iron, boron, and manganese to ensure quality yields. Fertilize the plants with phosphorus in double the volume of nitrogen.
However, excessive nitrogen content can negatively impact cone alpha and affect the brew. It's important to find the right combination of fertilizers by considering factors such as soil profile/PH level, hop varieties used, nutrient interactions, soil/foliar tests, and irrigation water quality. Using a combination of organic, granular, and drip-line soluble fertilizers can yield excellent results during the growing season.
7. Harvesting of Hop Shoots
Harvesting hops can be done by hand or using mechanical harvesters. When the lupin gland appears yellow and sticky, and the cone breaks easily, it indicates that the hops are ready for harvest. Start by harvesting from the bine and gradually move towards the rhizome part. To dry the hops, options include using the oven at a lower setting, a food dehydrator, or putting them in a brown paper bag and shaking them outdoors in the sun.
Economic Viability and Profitability
Hop shoots farming presents a promising economic opportunity for farmers in India. The short harvesting window allows for high-value sales, attracting premium prices in the market. By diversifying their crops and incorporating hop shoots into their farming practices, farmers can potentially increase their income and create a niche market for this specialty produce.
Health Benefits of Hop Shoots
Hop shoots have long been utilized to address a range of health conditions, offering relief and support in various ways. It can provide relief in:
- Sleep disorders
Furthermore, it promotes healthy digestion, improves urine flow, and helps treat breast cancer, high cholesterol, ovarian cancer, bladder infections, and more.
Conclusion - Hop Shoots Farming in India
Hop shoots farming presents an exciting opportunity for agricultural diversification in India. With their unique flavor, nutritional value, and culinary versatility, hop shoots have the potential to carve a niche in the market. By embracing this emerging crop, farmers can tap into new revenue streams and contribute to the sustainable growth of the agricultural sector.