We are here FOR HOPS
Czech hops = green gold
The Czech Republic is one of the world leaders in hops productions with a tradition of more than a thousand years. Almost 6,000 tonnes of hops are grown on 5,000 hectares every year here. 80% of this volume is represented by the most famous variety of hops – Saaz semi-early red bine hops (Žatecký poloraný červeňák) – with their light aroma and unmistakable taste, typical, for instance, for pilsner lager.
Hop growers in the Saaz region (Žatecko), which is the most important region in Czechia from the hop growing perspective, are especially vulnerable. The majority of their hop yards is part of a quite small microclimate, where the nearby Ore Mountains (Krušné hory) create a rain shadow. Because of this, the annual precipitation total in the area is only about 450 millimetres. Meanwhile, the nation-wide average is between 600 to 750 millimetres.
There is no beer without hops
Brewing beer without hops is possible, but the beer does not taste good. It lacks the typical bitter taste and beautiful smell which have made Czech beer famous around the world.
They once tried to brew a hop-free beer in Plzeňský Prazdroj and let people taste it. Their reactions say it all. Hops are simply essential for beer.
During autumn 2021, we fitted the first six hop yards in the Saaz region with weather stations and soil sensors. We gradually added time-lapse cameras and placed so-called hop ECG sensors directly on hop plants. These provide unique information about what the plants need and how they develop depending on the weather.
After two years of measuring the impact of weather on the growth of hops, and after two full vegetation periods, FOR HOPS has an extensive information database and brings its first tangible results. The project measured the amount of water a hop plant needs during one season for the first time in history. During their vegetation period, hop plants consume on average 2 litres of water for each stem every day, which means 10-12 litres of water for the whole plant. On top of that, we have discovered how long water stays in the soil with regard to various types of weather, and how much it soaks down to deeper levels in the ground. This provides a foundation for hop farmers to know how much water they need to supply their hop yards so that plants continue to flourish.
The online database is available to all the participating farmers. This way, they have a detailed overview of the weather and climate over the past two years, the humidity and temperature of the soil at various depths, and of the increase in biomass in hop yards. The comprehensive data enable adjusting the care for hops, and at least partially combat climate change.
At the same time, the database provided a basis for the development of a unique application that should help hop farmers with their work. It will include a predictive model that is able to predict the yield and the quality of hops based on the measured data and analysis of historical facts. The irrigation model can even work the other way round: hop farmers enter their target yield and quality of hops, and the system will tell them how much water they need to supply in hop farms in the following period based on the amount of precipitation, the weather forecast, the soil humidity and past irrigation.