Thursday, February 9, 2017

NC Hops: Disease and Insect Control Recommendations

We get many questions on how to grow hops and what can be used on hops to control diseases and insects. Growers often turn to the internet for answers, but particularly in the case of hops, what works in one area might not work in another. Most of the hops grown in the U.S. are produced in the Pacific Northwest where the summer days are long, the climate is hot and dry, and soils are alkaline. Here in the Southeast our longest summer day is really a bit too short for the commercial hop varieties that are available to us. Our climate is hot and wet and our soils are acidic. We experience more disease pressure and encounter some insects not often seen in the Pacific Northwest. So, recommendations for growing hops in the Southeast is different from those you'll find for growing them in places such as Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Michigan, and New York.

So last summer, extension horticulturists, entomologists, and pathologists from across the Southeastern U.S. came together to update the Southeastern Vegetable Crop Handbook and this time we decided to include hops. In time we will have a production manual dedicated just to hops, but we wanted to make this information readily available to growers and extension agents and this annually revised handbook, available in print and on-line, seemed like the best way to do it.

Below is a link to the on-line pdf version of the handbook. The cultural practices for growing hops and recommended varieties can be found on page 60. In the back of the book you will find insect management recommendations (i.e., insecticides and miticides) on page 141 in Table 2-12. Disease control management recommendations (i.e., fungicides) can be found on page 190 in Table 3-18. Remember to always read and follow label directions.

And that the 2017 South Atlantic Hops Conference will be held on March 24 and 25 in Asheville, NC. We expect to sell out again this year, especially for tickets that include the tours on Friday, so don't delay. Below is a link to the Eventbrite page for more information and tickets.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Farmlink Programs in NC Join Forces!

NC FarmLink and WNC FarmLink have recently merged their databases in an effort to form a stronger and more unified partnership of farm linking organizations in North Carolina. Both organizations were formed within the last five years to serve different regions of North Carolina. Now, their combined efforts not only aid farmland access for both beginning and expanding farmers but also with farmland preservation. Farmland loss is an increasing risk across the state due to retiring farmers and development pressure. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, between 2007 and 2012, North Carolina lost 2,695 farms and approximately 60,000 acres of farmland. "We are thrilled with this merger and strong partnership," says Suzanna Denison, WNC FarmLink's land access coordinator. "We are excited to move forward together as a more unified team for both farmland access and preservation in North Carolina."

FarmLink services provide opportunities for farmers and landowners to connect in order to make farmland matches possible. Now there is a single database in North Carolina for those seeking land and those looking to find a farmer in order to keep their land in agriculture. Further information can be found on the NC FarmLink website. While on this website, farmers can look for available farmland with searchable terms such as acreage, county, and current farm production. Landowners can search the farmer profiles for someone to farm their land and farmers can search these same profiles for aspiring farmers to continue farming their land when they retire. Both of these options provide a web tool that can help make farmland matches possible and ultimately assist in the preservation of North Carolina's farms. WNCFarmlink provides land matching support services to the western region of the state, including one-on-one consultations, workshops, and technical and legal land access support. The NC and WNC Farmlink services are free.

The goals of NC and WNC Farmlink include:
  • Providing a web-based farmland matching service, where users can search and pursue matches on their own.
  • Providing resources and service provider information, which can help support the farmland access or transition process.
  • Creating farmland access opportunities that support local agriculture and economies.
  • Ensuring farmland preservation in North Carolina through these farmland matching services.
"At NC and WNC Farmlink, we want to help ease the challenges in either finding land to farm or someone to farm your land," Denison says. "Not only do we provide farmland matching tools, we also offer on the ground support to determine if it is a viable land match, as well as one-on-one consultations and technical support in lease arrangements, farm financing, and other factors key to successful farmland access or transition."

About NC FarmLink:
NC Farmlink connects farmers, landowners, and service providers in North Carolina as a free land access web tool co-managed by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and WNC Farmlink. It is collaboratively managed and supported by a network of partners across the state. For more information, visit:

About WNC FarmLink:
WNC FarmLink matches farm and forest landowners with new and experienced farmers eager to find land to farm in WNC. The program is a free service to WNC residents. WNC FarmLink offers personalized one-on-one consultation, provides group workshops to help beginning farmers negotiate equitable leases and prepare logistically and financially for long-term land tenure and purchase, which is a major obstacle for beginning farmers. WNC FarmLink is a partnership of organizations working for farmland transition and preservation. The program is grant funded. The land access coordinator has her office in the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy offices in Asheville and is a North Carolina State University employee in the NC Alternative Crops and Organics Program.  For more information, visit:

Contact: Suzanna Denison, WNC FarmLink land access coordinator. 828-785-4284;;

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The WNC Medicinal Herb Growers Club has posted their 2017 events!

The WNC Medicinal Herb Growers Club is a special little group in western North Carolina that not all that many people know about. They are doing a great job educating growers and wanna-be growers about all the ins and outs of being a successful medicinal herb grower. I wanted to bring their 2017 events to your attention. All are open to the public, so if you something of interest, just register and "come on out".
I maintain a blog page for the club that you can follow HERE. Details about all the events are included there.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hops Conference in Asheville in March! View the program and register now!

We have a great program lined up for the South Atlantic Hops Conference on March 24 and 25 at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Asheville, NC. With three tours to choose from on Friday and a full day educational program and tradeshow on Saturday, you will get the chance to learn everything there is to know about growing hops in the South Atlantic region. Early bird registration ends on December 31, so if you want to save a little money, take a minute to register now. Regular registration is open through March 11, but don't wait too long because we sold out last year!

The program is printed below (subject to minor changes). And this the conference website:


We have three big buses reserved this year and we are putting together three different tours for Friday afternoon. We are still finalizing the details but we can tell you that Riverbend Malt House, the NCSU Research Hop Yard, Sticky Indian Hops, North River Farms (barley), Sierra Nevada Brewery, H&K Farm (hops), and New Belgium Brewing will each be on at least one of the tours. You will have to choose one of the three tours. They will be different because most places can't handle 150 visitors in an afternoon! Information on how to reserve space on the tour of your choice will be posted later. If you register for the tours before we post that, we will email that information to you and you will get "first dibs". Start with an early lunch at the hotel and buses will start boarding around 11:45 for a noon departure.


There will be a single bus making a continuous circuit including the breweries and the hotel. This will run from 6 pm to 10 pm. You are welcome to get on and off at will, but if you miss the last bus, you need to find your way back to the hotel (lots of taxi and Uber opportunities in Asheville). Catawba Brewing Co. is our special partner for the evening. They are going to brew a conference beer made with local ingredients! Attendees will get a ticket for one glass of the conferernce beer, but after that you will have to buy all your own beer and food that evening. Catawba Brewing Co. is also offering a brewhouse tour and tasting for our group, but you have to register and pay for that separately through this Catawba Eventbrite page (be careful about signing up for the 6:00 tour in case your bus is running behind).


8:00-9:00 Registration

9:00-9:15 Welcome-Jeanine Davis

9:15-10:00 Keynote: The Hops Industry Across the Globe and Where the South Atlantic Growers Fit In-Scott Jennings, Sierra Nevada Brewery, Mills River

10:00-10:30 Break

Concurrent Sessions: Beginners (B) Experienced Growers (E)

10:30-11:10 (B) How to grow hops in the South Atlantic-the basics-Laura Siegle, Virginia Extension-and Holly Scoggins, Virginia Tech (E) Processing hops-drying, pelletizing, storing-Solomon Rose, Organarchy Hops

11:20-12:00 (B) If I could do it all over again-a grower‘s perspective-Phillip Davis, Sticky Indian Hops-and Stan Driver, Hoot'n Holler Hops (E) Our experiences with hop harvesters-Jeanine Davis-NC State University, Justen Dick, Kelly Ridge Farms, and Solomon Rose, Organarchy Hops

12:00-1:00 Lunch

1:00-1:40 (B) Selling hops to local brewers-Phillip Davis, Sticky Indian Hops and Heidi Dunkelberg, H&K Farms (E) Hops chemistry from ground to glass-Ken Hurley, Virginia Tech

1:50-2:30 (B) The business of growing hops (financing, taxes, insurance, incorp. etc)-Adam Hopkins, University of Tennessee (E) Brewers Panel-How are local growers doing?-Scott Jennings, Sierra Nevada, Kevin Sondey, Catawba Brewing Co., and Matt Norman, Frog Level Brewing

2:30-3:00 Break

Concurrent Sessions: A and B

3:00-3:40 (A) Old Dominion Hops Coop-what it is, how it works, and benefits of belonging–Stan Driver, Hoot'n Holler Hops and Nat Ables, Highline Hops (B) Hops and daylength-grower and researcher experiments-Justen Dick, Kelly Ridge Farms, and Colleen Doherty or Eric Waddell, NC State University

3:50-4:30 (A) What am I allowed to spray on my hops? Laura Siegle, Virginia Extension and Patrick Jones, NC Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services (B) Leveraging the local growers' competitive advantages and varieties to avoid planting in 2017-John Bryce, the Lupulin Exchange

4:30-4:45 Break

Single Sessions

4:45-5:45 Results from the North Carolina and Virginia university hop growing studies-Jeanine Davis, NC State University, Holly Scoggins, Virginia Tech and Laban Rutto, Virginia State

5:45-6:00 Wrap-Up, choose site for next year, thank you

Monday, December 5, 2016

Support Our Organic and New Crops Program by Donating Today!

For over 25 years, our program has focused on helping farmers improve the profitability of their farms by growing new crops, transitioning to organic agriculture, and adopting more sustainable practices. We have led and cooperated on many applied and basic research projects that include ginseng and other woodland botanicals, ramps, hops, truffles, medicinal herbs, stevia, garlic, and heirloom tomatoes, to name just a few. This past summer we started our first biodynamic study and next year we hope to have some hemp studies in the ground.
We love sharing what we have learned with farmers, gardeners, extension agents, and industry representatives through field days, workshops, and social media. 

Our program is almost entirely funded by grants. Grants pay for all the staff salaries and all the projects costs. But grants are time consuming to write and manage and what can be purchased on grants is limited. For example, we can't buy office supplies or pay for maintenance on our trucks on grant money. So, we are coming to you to ask for some year end support. If you think what we are doing is valuable, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our program. It's quick and easy and we welcome any amount you want to share. AND, we will list your name on our Friends list! Here's the link:, and thank you! 


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Grant Opportunity for Western NC Farmers!!

WNC AgOptions Grant Period Open!

WNC Agricultural Options is now accepting grant applications from farmers diversifying or expanding their businesses. The program helps offset farmers' risk of starting ventures or growing new operations with $3,000 and $6,000 grants. The application deadline is Nov. 14.  The program made one noteworthy change to its application process: the deadline is no longer a postmark cutoff date. Applications must be at the WNC Communities office in Asheville by November 14.

The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has notified WNC AgOptions leaders that the program will be funded for another two years. The Commission expects to increase the amount of funding so that WNC AgOptions can give more farmers grants in 2017 and 2018 than in recent years.

Applicants should contact their Cooperative Extension Agents to set up an appointment to discuss their projects. Applications are available at or at local Cooperative Extension Centers. Extension Agents remain a resource for farmers throughout the year as they complete their projects.

Since 2004, WNC AgOptions has awarded more than $2 million to 456 farmers. The program serves a diverse array of farmers, including many noteworthy agritourism projects. WNC AgOptions offers grants for farms in the following counties/units: Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Clay, Cherokee, Cleveland, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey.

(This was copied directly from the Buncombe County Extension Center newsletter)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

WNC Farmlink News-including the first video!

The WNC Farmlink program is growing and expanding! Check out the first of what we hope are many videos about the program, the services offered, how to negotiate farmland purchases and leases, and the people the program serves. The videos are being made by the two people highlighted below.
Thank you, Leo Stefanile, for your great camera and editing work! Leo is a multi-talented research assistant in our program.

Recently, WNC Farmlink teamed up with NC Farmlink to combine their databases so they could offer a "one-stop shop" for North Carolina farm seekers and land owners. Here are the links to the farm seeker database and the farm owner database. WNC Farmlink is unique because there is a person located in the western North Carolina dedicated to helping people through the process of finding, buying, selling, and leasing farmland.
Suzanna Denison is the WNC Farmlink land access coordinator. She is an extension assistant in my program at NC State University with an office in the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy offices in downtown Asheville, NC. The unique aspect of WNC Farmlink is that Suzanna is located in western NC to provide personalized one-on-one consultations to people in the region. She also organizes workshops for farm seeks and owners, helps landowners understand all the options available to them, and helps beginning farmers negotiate equitable leases and prepare logistically and financially for long-term land tenure and purchase. 
The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, in partnership with Organic Growers School and WNC Farmlink, was recently awarded a $600,000 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant which will help support this program over the next three years.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cucurbit Downy Mildew present in Western North Carolina

We are conducting screening trials for the multi-state Organic Cucurbit Breeding project. We are growing cucumber, melon, and squash varieties and breeding lines and looking for resistance to several diseases and insects. The most important disease we want resistance to is Downy Mildew. Usually it is a huge problem for us and takes down susceptible plants by mid-July. But this year, our field plots look great because we have not had Downy Mildew. But, that will probably end soon as Downy Mildew has been diagnosed in the region, as our pathologist, Inga Meadows, explains in this article:
Cucurbit Downy Mildew Found in Ashe and Haywood Counties
- Written By Inga Meadows, Plant Pathologist, NC State University

Cucurbit downy mildew has been reported on pumpkin and cucumber in Ashe and Haywood Counties, respectively. Downy mildew, caused by the oomycete Pseudoperonospora cubensis, infects leaves and can result in significant yield loss.  

It was reported through the CDM IPMPipe on pumpkin in Ashe County on August 10, 2016 and by an NCDA Agronomist in Haywood County on August 12, 2016.

Cucurbit downy mildew is a foliar disease that affects all commercial cucurbits (cucumber, cantaloupe, squash, watermelon, pumpkin, etc.), but is most severe on cucumbers. Growers are advised to actively scout for the disease and initiate preventative sprays in cucurbit crops immediately. 

The Cucurbit Downy Mildew factsheet, previous alerts, North Carolina fungicide efficacy trials, and The Southeastern US Vegetable Crop Handbook provide recommendations for chemical control options. Growers should use intensive spray programs (every 5-7 days) once disease if found in their fields, especially if weather conditions are conducive to disease (wet and cool weather). The downy mildew pathogen can become resistant to fungicides very quickly. It is critical that growers alternate products in their fungicide programs and tank-mix with a protectant with every application to protect the few chemistries we have that are still highly effective in controlling downy mildew.

If you think you have downy mildew in your field, please contact your local Extension agent and send photos and/or physical samples to the Plant Disease and Insect Clinic. Reporting the occurrence of cucurbit downy mildew to the CDM IPM pipe helps us protect our state's cucurbit industry by providing them with timely disease management information.

Friday, July 29, 2016

An Update from the NC Research Hop Yard-End of July Report

This article was written by Kelly Gaskill, Research Assistant and our resident hops grower:
We are just a few short weeks away from our first harvest at the NCSU Research Hop Yard in Mills River, NC. The plants are looking pretty darn good this year after a somewhat slow start. We finally have the rains we were hoping for in early summer. We did have downy mildew early on, but with our weekly spray schedule we have kept the disease at bay. The regular pests were certainly showing up, too; spider mites, leaf hoppers and Japanese beetles. These were managed with a miticide and insecticide. More recently we have been experimenting with predator mites (Phytoseiulus persimilis). So far they seem to be effectively controlling the spider mite pest population.
In early July the plants started sending out a new flush of side shoots on the lower three feet of the bines. They did this last year too, making a decent sized second harvest and boosting yields. 
However, this harvest season will be different than the previous five years due to the use of a harvesting machine on loan from the great folks at Hopsharvester. We are currently in the process of fine-tuning the harvester to adapt to our plants that are less vigorous then those up north where the machine was developed. When fully functioning it can pick 180 bines per hour! 
As for the varieties- Canadian Red Vine is once again loaded with cones and we anticipate another monster harvest from this one. We propagated 15 rhizomes this spring and these plants are loaded with cones too! This variety is an exciting one to be sure! In other news, Nugget, a typical high yielder is showing very few cones this year and I can’t pin point the reason. Ah, the ups and downs of hop growing in the Southeast. Happy Weekend Everyone! 
 PS: You can still sign up for our monthly research hop yard tours when we will be demonstrating the harvester. Go to Hop Yard Tours

Friday, July 8, 2016

Annual Alternative Crops and Organics Research Tour AND Biodynamic Workshop

This is an annual event that many people come to every year to see what we are up to on the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville, NC. The morning tour is focused on our certified organic research on vegetables, our hops breeding, and our truffle project. In the afternoon, you can join us for lunch and a workshop on Biodynamic agriculture. There are a number of large markets and processors searching for Biodynamic product. We will tell you what Biodynamic agriculture is and why we are interested in studying it. There will be two Biodynamic farmers to discuss their operations and a representative from Demeter USA will explain how to become certified.

We ask you to register ahead of time so we know how many people to plan for. The tour is free and the workshop with lunch is $10. Spacing for the workshop is limited, so don't wait.
Here is a link to the website with more information, the agenda, and registration:
Alternative Crops and Organics Tour and Biodynamic Workshop Registration

Thank you to our sponsor for making this program affordable for everyone: