Undetermined Hop Malady


    I have had healthy/disease free hops until this year.  This year my Magnum hops is suffering from some

    Hop malady effects on my Magnum hops.

    Hop Malady

    sort of hop malady (disorder or disease of the plant, especially one that is chronic or deepseated).  I have been unable to determine the culprit here.  I have researched many books and websites and have not come across any disease whether bacterial, viral, fungal or deficiency or pest that causes these symptoms.  One fairly thorough hop disease resource I checked did not have pictures of the symptoms I am seeing.

    The symptoms are, crumpled/misshaped leaves and shoot tips.  The closest I have come symptom-wise is  a boron deficiency.  I only found one product that contained any boron in it – it is Bonide Liquid Iron + micronutrients.  It contains magnesium, boron, copper, iron, manganese, zinc which should cover a few different possible deficiencies.  I had to try something.

    Yet to be determined hop disease or malady.

    Hop Malady - Which One?













    I sprayed all three of my plants (lost a Fuggle container hop over the winter) Nugget, Magnum and Cascade.  This seemed to help the Magnum somewhat.  There are sideshoots (laterals) coming out with what appear to be normal leaves (so far) – only time will tell.  The Nugget and Cascade hops have darkened leaves and the leaves are larger than they have been in the past – must have been at least partially deficient in iron or one of the other minerals.

    I also added kelp meal to the soil and top-dressed with compost from my composter hoping to address any and all possible deficiencies.  It may be too late – It is still growing (10 feet tall) but does not look healthy.  I am going to see how things turn out.  I may have to dig it up and start with a new hop rhizome next year – hoping there is no pathogen in the soil.

    The only thing that has been done out of the ordinary was a hop rhizome trimming this year.  That was a good month before any signs of trouble.  I did trim back all the shoots except 5 that I am training up the rope about a week prior to any signs of trouble.  The Magnum was about 5 feet tall and healthy before the leaves started to crumple (no discoloration of any kind).  Whether the rhizome trimming, the hop shoot trimming allowed a virus, bacteria or fungus into the plant, I don’t know.  It also has been cold and lots of rain (Black Root Rot?) before this happened.  I would need to dig up the crown to check for black root rot or pests possibly eating away at the root stock – I am not at that point yet.  There are no visible pests on the bines or leaves, if it is a pest issue, it would be underground with the crown/root stock.

    I will keep you all posted and any remote diagnosis from the pictures and history here would be appreciated.

    Categories : Third Year Hops


    1. Not an over fertilization problem. I had not used any fertilizer this year other than a little top dressed fully composted compost. After I did some research, a boron deficiency was the most likely culprit and treatable so I tried a boron supplement (trace amounts) sprayed on the leaves and the hop plant turned right around with healthy growth. I have not used any fertilizer in the soil other than blood and bone meal, soil inoculants (bacterial and mycorrhizal) – small amounts top dressed with compost – after spraying with boron, I also added some kelp meal as it contains almost every trace mineral there is.

      The other years I have used Miracle-Gro liquid on the leaves 2 or 3 times – not saturate the soil. When I dug up hop rhizomes, there were plenty of worms in the soil. The Miracle-Gro may have saved my hops the last few years. Like I said, I had not used any chemical fertilizer this year and that is when I ran into problems. I will always keep my soil alive by not putting non-organic chemicals in it. The trace of liquid Miracle-Gro that may drip to the soil is minimal and apparently, my soil is lacking boron. As long as it works, I’m sticking with it.

    2. Ryan says:

      Could it be that you added too much fertilizer at once. It is possible to burn plant’s roots if you add too much. This would explain why later shoots look better. I’d stay away from miracle-gro as it repels earthworms(according to my wife’s horticulture proffesor) and use an organic ferilizer that releases nutrients gradually.

    3. Robert,
      Thanks so much for that! This year we have had a ton of rain (and snow). Other years I hit my hops with Miracle Grow once or twice – same time I hit my tomatoes. This year I didn’t (trying to stay as organic as possible). Like I stated, the old leaves are hosed – new growth (since boron application) is great. I did not even know Miracle Grow had boron in it – sitting right in my garage the whole time. I will definitely take this into consideration from here on. I am going to check the soil ph now that I am back in town and from now on, Miracle grow every year. Thanks again!

    4. Robert says:

      Definitely boron. I use Miracle Grow liquid for the boron ..and is the only time I use Miracle Grow. Boron deficiencies aren’t all that rare place with lots of rain, you can get the deficiency. Now any fixes you do, won’t help existing leaves so much but they will prevent new leaves from this deficiency.

    5. Eric,

      Thank you very much for your thoughts. I have not tested the pH of the soil and that does seem to be the most logical starting point. The boron application seemed to halt any further leaf curling and all new growth appears normal and healthy since the boron application(trace amount). The curled leaves did seem thicker than normal and back up the theory of a boron deficiency and/or pH allowing boron and/or other nutrients from being assimilated. Peach leaf curl was the closest visual match I had come up with and if it is/was a disease, it is similar to that fungal disease.

      I was waiting for someone with your credentials (soil analysis, fertility and sustainable agriculture studies) to chime in. It is much appreciated. I will follow your advice and post my findings and remedies for all to learn from. I will definitely check the pH of any and all compost I use also. Thanks again!

    6. Eric says:

      What is the pH of your soil? Boron deficiencies are fairly rare and occur mainly at high pH values and it is a fairly thin line from deficient to toxic so be careful when supplementing your soils with it. From the photo all I can see is marginal curling and maybe interveinal and maybe a little marginal chlorosis (haloing) but I can’t be sure from the photo….. are the leaves thicker/tougher than the others? if so, then boron is probably your culprit and should be able to be fixed by pH adjustments. Composts I have studied often have high EC values and have a high pH, adding too much compost or immature compost could cause pH imbalances and you find your nutrients complexing with one another and forming insoluble molecules. Even if it is not boron, adjusting your pH to 5.5-6.5 will commonly balance your soils nutrients. I study soils, soil fertility and sustainable agriculture and work a lot with composts and high pH soils, this is all educated guesswork without soil or plant tissue analysis, but if you grow a lot around your property it may be worth it to send a couple soil samples to a lab just for kicks, you can usually get a nutrient only work up for less than $100.

      This is not peach leaf curl, that is a certainty….. it effects only some stone fruits (peaches/nectarines) and causes reddening/curling and dropping of leaves.

    7. Ben,
      Thanks for the input. As we are finding out, boron and other minerals… are not necessarily readily available. I think the online specialty stores and some of the larger nursery sites will probably be the best bet. Thanks again.

    8. Ben says:

      There are some fruit tree fertilizers that contain Boron. I got some in the past from either Stark Brothers or Gurneys, but looks like their product lines have changed slightly in the year or two since I ordered it. If you are looking for fertilizer that contains a higher amount of boron that might be an avenue to pursue as well.

    9. Leslie,
      Thanks for your input. I have not used any herbicides anywhere near my hops. I spoke with my neighbor and he claims not to have used any herbicides alongside our garages where the hops reside. There is always herbicide drift (carried in the wind), but only the middle hop plant is affected – hops on either side show no signs.

      I had not added any soil, compost or mulch before this happened. I use my own soil, compost and mulch as I have heard of many horror stories of contaminated compost, mulch, hay and straw. I am am as organic as possible, but the few times I have used a weed killer on my lawn(none this year), I bag the clippings and send it off rather than incorporate weed killer or other pesticides in my compost or grass clippings I use as mulch. The symptoms are very much like a herbicide though. Thanks again and hopefully others can benefit from all the good advice coming in.

    10. Leslie Hamilton says:

      Have you used any herbicides on the property, or imported and soil or compost? I bought a load of “garden mix” and have the same symptoms on many of my broad leaf plants. My tomatoes and peppers, have curled deformed leaf growth, most pronounced on tips and new growth. I believe the soil was contaminated by a herbicide. The symptoms are very similar to what I see on your hops.

    11. Mort,
      Thanks for the input. Not sure if it is Peach leaf curl, but it is the closest disease so far by the symptoms I have. The one symptom my Magnum hops does not have is discoloration. Most of these diseases have some sort of discoloration – my has none, just deep green crumpled leaves. I am leaning towards a fungus though as we had a cold and rainy April and May (global warming I guess).

      My new growth, the laterals have normal leaves which is good. Hopefully it will pull through. The iron/boron and micronutrient spray I tried in case of a deficiency had some copper in it. Whether it addressed a deficiency, had enough copper to thwart a fungal disease, I do not know but it seemed to help. I am going to look for a copper fungicide and give it a shot. Thanks again and good luck with your hops!

    12. Mortimer Bondurant says:

      I looked at the picture and immediately thought “Peach Leaf Curl.” I don’t have any expertise and my first year hops are only 6 inches tall at this point, but that’s what it looks similar to. Here’s a website that that describes PLC and remedies So, my first guess is that it’s a fungus due to the similarities to PLC. Thanks for posting the bad as well as the good for our edification.


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