Hops Boron Deficiency

    Magnum hops recovered from a boron deficiency

    Magnum Hops Resurrected

    It was a hops boron deficiency that was responsible for the hop malady of the 2 previous posts.  It was the most likely suspect according to my research.  Thanks to a couple of folks better educated on the subject than  me, we have confirmed this was the problem – Thanks Eric and Robert!  I still have to check the ph of the soil – I have not checked it since before I planted the hop rhizomes.  Not certain how good my $20+ ph meter actually is/was – I have retired it.  The soil ph will affect all nutrient and trace mineral absorption so I will check this soon.

    Previous years I gave the hop bines a couple of sprayings with Miracle-Gro and that may have hid the boron deficiency of the soil.  This year we have had a lot of rain and that could have leached boron and other nutrients out of the soil in contact with the root stock of the hop plants.  This year I did not use any fertilizer of any kind other than top dressing the soil with compost.  At least until after the “hop malady” had already occurred.

    I did a lot of research but was not certain of the cause – whether disease, pest or deficiency.  I had pretty much ruled out pests by visual inspection of the bines and leaves and the symptoms of curled leaves with no discoloration.  Other than possible pests underground.  That left disease and deficiency.  The number of possible hop diseases  – bacterial, viral, fungal… was overwhelming – some easily discarded, others similar to what I was seeing.  The deficiencies were less but still amazing what a macro or micro-nutrient deficiency could do.

    Thanks to some good input (comments) to my posts, I got some good advice.  That’s the whole purpose here is to share and gain knowledge.  By the way, if you have a question, use the comment to ask so everyone can benefit from the question and answer (if I have one) – others can also chime in with answers.  Some folks are asking through the “Contact us” email form.  I do answer these but if you have the question, chances are someone else does also.  BTW – here is a great Growing Hops Resource that came from a commentor – Robert – thanks again!

    The way the problem showed itself was, everything was going fine until the

    Nugget hops, Magnum hops and Cascade hops.

    Nugget Magnum and Cascade Hops

    bines of my Magnum hops hit 8 – 10 feet – then the leaves started to curl up and the tips of the bines seemed to die off.  Unfortunately by the time I was “thinking” it could be a boron deficiency and actually finding a product with boron in it (I was unaware liquid Miracle-Gro had boron in it – sitting in my garage the whole time – DOH), severe damage was done.  I thought I lost the hop plant.  I sprayed all of my surviving plants (lost a Fuggle container hop plant this winter) with Bonide Liquid Iron and micronutrients to address a boron deficiency and possible other mineral deficiencies.  It worked –  I saved the Magnum hops!

    The hop plant is stunted at 10 feet (a couple of laterals are climbing a bit higher).  All of the leaves that were crumpled when I sprayed the bines are now dead.  All the new growth (laterals) are healthy.  I am likely to have a smaller Magnum hop harvest this year, but I expect a full harvest next year (will be year 4).  Another thing I noticed is the Nugget and Cascade hops I also sprayed – some of the leaves are friggen huge!  some 10 inches across!  Apparently there has always been a deficiency (at least one – most likely more).

    I try to stay as organic as possible, but I am using Liquid Miracle-Gro from here on (I am still trying to verify the boron in it – I will use the Bonide product too).  I do not spray anything once hop burrs start to appear – I don’t want any “extras” in my hop cones  After this all transpired, I am also incorporating kelp fertilizer – the ocean has every mineral there is and I figure adding a little bit of every mineral and trace mineral couldn’t hurt.  There’s my update.  My previous 2 posts were leaning more and more towards a boron deficiency and since the boron brought my near dead Magnum hop back to life – I am a believer!

    Categories : Third Year Hops


    1. Susan,
      I have never heard of flies being an issue. Do you know what kind of flies? Googling I found reference to a Aphis humuli – a type of fly, the mentions of it I found were European (I suppose it could be a stateside issue also). If they come back this year, you could try a soap and water or oil and water spray top get rid of them. There must be other organic products that would be of help. I will check around and see if I can find more info.

    2. SusanC says:

      Hello to hop lovers,

      We have a hop bine growing up a column of a deck, and it’s beautiful all summer.

      The problem we had in the summer 2013, the cones were much smaller and flies – yes flies, nested in the vine/bine. We cut the whole thing down in August as there was no sense spraying it with a pesticide. It was a very strange sight, we put the bine in the back of the pick – up truck and the flies went with it to the dump!

      Why would the flies be so interested in the bine(s)? This is new to us as we just moved here and the hops were already on the bines the first year we were here (in Idaho). We had no problems the first year. This will be the second year this summer. What should we do to prevent this from happening again?

      Thanks for your reply and suggestions,


    3. Brandon,
      I am not exactly familiar with your climate, but from what I think I know about it, it is less than ideal for growing hops. Hops like lots of sunshine and need well draining, fertile soil – the root stock cannot sit in standing water. Hops are susceptible to many forms of mold which a wet environment enables. It is best to check with local home brewers and home brew supply stores and see if anyone is successfully growing hops in your area and how they are doing it. I hope this helps.

    4. BRANDON says:


    5. Mike,
      I have no experience growing hops commercially. I would try some agricultural universities or maybe http://gorstvalleyhops.com/

    6. MIke says:

      I am interested in growing hops> Is there decent money growing hops on about four acres?

    7. Smokeysmom,
      Thanks for the garlic tip, I wasn’t aware of that and I love garlic.

    8. Smokeysmom says:

      Japanese beetles? I grow low-bush roses called fairy roses. Last year, the beetles were all over my roses, almost left them dead until I put out a collecting pheromone bag, which helped, but did not get rid of them entirely. This year, knowing about companion planting, I planted some garlic cloves in the flowerbed with my roses. I haven’t seen one japanese beetle all summer and my roses are flourishing.
      I’m thinking of growing hops and tomatoes next year, because the vines for both can hang off the rails of my deck. I’ve been growing winter savory and other perennial herbs in large pots on my deck, so I figure that hops could add something picturesque to the place.

    9. Rotten Rod,
      I will check around for free, robust photo sharing sites in my spare time which is almost nil. If you come up with something let me know. That Hop Union hop school looks like a blast – some day I will have to make the road trip. Great harvest so far! Not bad for 3 plants and more coming. That’s about the ratio I come up with for wet(relatively) to dry 4 to 1 or 5 to 1. Thanks for the update. Keep us posted on the photo sharing library and your harvests.

    10. Rotten Rod says:

      I am interested in supporting a photo catalog though I haven’t done much with websites since the late 90s. I spoke with a guy from Hop Union at NHC this year and ran that photo library idea past him. He too thought it was a good idea and wondered why noone had done it yet. If I can find his card I will follow up with him to see if it is something they might be considering. I was thinking of attending their hop school this month (http://www.hopunion.com/29_HopsBrewSchool.cfm?p8=open) but probably cannot not pull it together since registration is due today. I am located in Folsom, CA. The first harvest from three plants yielded about four pounds wet which dried out to an even pound. Bagged them in gallon freezer ziplocs (2 oz each) last night and they are now in the freezer. Lots of new cone starts on those so I expect I will get a couple more harvests from them this year.

    11. Rotten Rod,
      I am glad you found my blog. My intent was to share my experiences (good and bad) and share knowledge that would help people to grow hops. I am not an expert, but I research quite a bit and have friends that excel at growing hops. Growing hops is not hard if you have the right climate (80% of the USA can grow hops). This is mostly common sense and just listening to people who have done it successfully. As far as my boron problem, I had a really hard time finding a a boron product. I went to half a dozen garden stores and nurseries looking for anything with boron in it. I even went to super markets and mega stores looking for 20 Mule Team Borax (based upon my high school science/chemistry knowledge – I couldn’t find the product!) Anyway I found one at Bachman’s a specialty garden store in my area (Minneapolis, MN) and that did the trick.

      I like your idea of a common repository of hops pictures. I belong to one, but it does not identify the hop varieties http://www.flickr.com/groups/_hops_/pool/ . Maybe I will start one for the express purpose of identifying hop varieties (unless you want to). One of my most important tips on growing hops on this blog is: “DOCUMENT WHICH VARIETY YOU PLANT AND WHERE”. Obviously you now know the importance. It is difficult – many varieties look similar… Anyway, I am going to run with your idea and come up with a community hops picture site and this may help in identifying hops. I have had many, many people ask that same question – how to identify hops. Worst case, it will give folks a chance to share there pride and joy and perhaps some new trellising ideas. Nice Hallertau harvest! Where are you located, I am curious?

    12. Rotten Rod says:

      Just found this site today and am starting to work through it. I learned about the boron issue a few years ago and have been incorporating a bit of 20 Mule Team Borax cleaner into the soil each spring with no problems. My biggest problem this year was a complete depletion of nitrogen by early July, resulting in slow growth and brown leaf edges. Added some 20-0-0 fertilizer and all plants took off in two days. Just picked this year’s first harvest from my Hallertau (3rd year) – 1 lb 4 oz wet. Biggest problem I have is that the first year when I planted eight rhizomes I lost track of what variety was what (except for the Hallertau). All are growing well but still have not figured out how to ID them without paying Hop Union to analyze them. I was thinking of starting a cooperative photo database to help others who have made the same mistake. Any thoughts?

    13. Joe says:

      Glad to hear your hops are doing well. I am located in Buffalo, NY so perhaps that is the reason for the poor performance. I treated the soil with peat moss and time-release fertilizer so I wouldn’t expect that nutrition was an issue but I suppose I can try some miracle grow and see if it improves the plant’s condition. It seems odd two plants would grow so differently when they are just 5 feet apart but I guess you had the same issue with your magnum.

      Looking forward to the next post!

      -Joe in Buffalo

    14. Joe,
      My hops are doing pretty good, thanks – survived some 100+ temps here. Yep, little spikey balls are baby hop cones! Congrats. You didn’t say where you are located, but generally, noble hops (Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt, and Saaz) generally do not do so well in the USA – probably a vast difference in climate? Could also be a deficiency? Anyway, I will post an update soon with pics – The Magnum has recovered and is doing well!

    15. Joe says:

      How are your hops doing so far?

      I have 1 each of galena and halertau, both first year plants. my galena is going crazy and has the beginning of little hop cones growing (i think… little spikey balls?) but the hallertau is really suffering and stopped growing at about 5 feet.

      I’d love to see how your plants are doing so far, especially after the boron deficiency issue you were having.


    16. Sanka,
      Hard to say on your rhizome, is there any life or new growth (laterals…) with your bines? If there is no life at this point I would say it doesn’t look good for your rhizome / root stock.

    17. Robin,
      So far I have not had any issues with Japanese beetles. I see quite a few in my garden, but not on my hops – at least not yet.

    18. Robin says:

      Sorry to hear about your troubles with this years plants. I am in my first year and my plants are doing well so far, better than I expected for my first year. Have you had any issues with the Japanese Beetle? So far this seems to be my biggest issue. They have been minimal in quantity and I flick them into a pail of dish washing soap water. Just curious if you are having any issues with the little buggers. I am in Eastern Nebraska.

    19. sanka says:

      Mine were all brown and crispy leaves in the span of two days. Unbelievable. They grow like weeds all summer, then bam, gone.

      Do you have any thoughts on my rhizome? You think it’ll be OK for next year?

    20. Sanka

      Sorry to hear that. It happens quick doesn’t it. If you have any live growth – laterals or even crumpled leaves with some life left, try spraying them with Bonide and/or liquid miracle-Gro or other bororn products. Mine were almost dead before I brought them back. Better luck next year.

    21. sanka says:

      Boy i wish I had seen this a week ago. Same thing happened with my Cascades. About 10 feet and then all the leaves crumbled and died. I guess I’ll know for next year.

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