Hops are a key ingredient in beer making. They add bitterness and flavor to the beer and are often used to give beer its bitter taste. They are also an essential ingredient in the pharma industry and are used to make drugs for pain relief, and as a sedative.
Every part of the hops shoots can be used in various industries and are known to offer unique benefits. As an important ingredient in the brewing industry, hops shoots are essential to bring out various flavors in the craft beer industry. Though hops cultivation in India is a new and unexplored industry, the craft beer industry is growing at a fast pace in India, which lead to high demand for locally grown hops shoots. Hops cultivation in India did see good growth a few years back in Himachal Pradesh, but were abandoned due to a lack-luster market and high cultivation costs.
In spite of the demand for hops shoots, why is hops cultivation in India so expensive?
Hops cultivation in India is very labor intensive. The cultivation of hops shoots requires a lot of effort and time. They require a lot of care and attention. The shoots need to be tended to regularly in order to ensure their growth. They also need to be harvested periodically so that they do not get damaged.
They grow wildly and are difficult to find and harvest. One has to crouch and search a large area before they can fill an entire bag. The hops shoots have to be cut from the hops plant and then air dried for a few days. The dried hops shoots are then taken to the field where they have to be cut into pieces and then air dried for another few days.
Just a few years back, Indian hops shoots were being sold for up to ₤1000 (Rs.1.1 lakhs) per kilo in the international market. However, lack of marketing and the high cost of production has made farmers to abandon this lucrative business of hops cultivation in India.
Strict Climatic Conditions Needed
Hops grow well in tropical climates. However, they need a lot of water and a lot of sunlight. They do not grow well in cold climates but need ample moisture.
They are perennial plants and need yearlong water supply. Hop plants grow as male and female variants; however, female plants produce the flower known as hop cones.
Lupulin, which contains the aromatic oils and resins that give beer its distinct flavor, is used to make these hop cones.
The sapling should be planted in ideal soil that has been gently dragged and prepared prior to planting. This is necessary to promote the growth of its extensive root system. The perennial root system of a well-developed plant can extend more than 4 m deep and up to 5 m laterally. During the spring and summer months, this extensive root system is required for water and nutrient intake and storage, allowing for rapid development.
Soil types vary, but they must all be deep and well-drained in order for the hop plant’s massive root mass to grow to its full potential. When covered in snow, hop crowns can withstand temperatures as low as -25°C.
Achieving and maintaining such strict growth environment discourages some farmers from taking up hops cultivation in India.
Why Has Hops Cultivation In India Become A Big Hit?
The craft beer industry in India is booming. There is a great demand for hops shoots from the craft beer industry. Farmers have been switching to hops cultivation in India, which has helped to increase the supply of hops shoots in the international market too.
It helps reduce carbon footprint. The use of organic hops shoots for beer production is a great way to help the environment. The hops used in beer production were mostly grown in the US and Europe. Craft beer makers and microbreweries had to spend a lot of energy and resources to transport them across continents. When you grow them within our country, you are saving import costs too.
How To Achieve The Best Hops Shoot Harvest?
Hops offer high profits to farmers, but they need to invest considerable time and effort in growing the hops shoots right. Here are a few tips for farmers looking to take up hops cultivation in India –
1. If the soil’s hydrogen-potentiated pH is incorrect, it must be corrected using the proper actions and methods
2. Poor water quality and drip irrigation can cause crop damage
3. Recognize the significance and fertility of the soil before planting
4. Removing underground bacterial growth, which inhibits plant growth and degrades soil fertility
5. Choosing the proper fertilizer
6. Weed control problems can be solved by using the right fertilizer and weeding methods
7. Appropriate site selection to avoid environmental problems such as wind, rain and frost
8. Adequate understanding of pests and their controls
9. Crowning depth and timing, as well as bine mowing before planting
10. Employing the right mulching and composting processes
Local Demand For Hops Shoots Within India
The demand for hops shoots within India has increased significantly in recent years. This has made hops cultivation in India a popular option for many farmers. Choosing to cultivate hops in India allows farmers to sell their crop to local breweries, which reduces their dependence on exports.
This has led to a boom in the local hop industry, with many hop farmers switching from other regular crops to hops cultivation. The demand for hops within the craft beer industry has been particularly strong over the past few years, with a growing number of breweries beginning to use hops in their beer production.
They are used in a number of industries, other than the craft beer industry –
• Useful in herbal teas and soft drinks.
• Young shoots of hops are edible when cooked like asparagus and are used to treat anxiety, restlessness and insomnia.
• Hops pillows are used to treat sleeplessness
• Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
• Used to treat menstrual problems
Though farmers have realized the true potential of hops cultivation in India, the lack of awareness and an unsupportive marketing plan impedes the cultivation of this high-yielding crop, making it expensive for the farmers. While many farmers have given up hops cultivation, the demand for this crop is still on the rise.
What the farmers need is a regulated market for hops shoots and some much needed boost by the government to get hops cultivation in India back on track.
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