Friday, October 4, 2013

Hops Growing Class Scheduled for October 28 in Asheville

Plan to join us in this class on growing hops that we are offering in cooperation with the Bionetwork. I know there is a lot of interest from people interested in growing on a hobby and commercial scale,  so here is a chance for people to learn from our research and from some of our most experienced NC hop growers.  Speakers will be Jeanine Davis and Kelly Gaskill from NCSU who manage the hops research program; Rita Pelczar and John Wright of Blue Ridge Hops in Madison County; and Highland Brewery.

Event: Growing Hops for Brewing
When: October 28
Where: A-B Tech, Enka Campus in Haynes 200 (Large Conference Room)
Time: 8 am to 4:30 pm
Cost: $53.70, includes lunch
Pre-registration required:

This class will give the hops grower and home brewer tools to optimize the quality, yield, and value of their harvest. We will look into the entire life cycle of hops production, from growing to marketing, and what brewers look for when purchasing. Topics will include: the current demand for locally grown hops; costs and returns; insect and disease management; optimal nutrients; and marketing suggestions. We'll also hear from an experienced local grower and brewer who will each provide their unique perspective from inside the industry.

The class will move to Highland Brewing Company at 3:00 for a tour of their facilities and a homebrewing discussion, transportation not provided.

This course is provided in collaboration with faculty from NC State University's Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center.

Registration includes lunch!

Held at A-B Tech, Enka in Haynes 200 (Large Conference Room)

Click here for directions.

Have questions? Contact the BioNetwork at or call 828-398-7943.

Here is the agenda:

8:30-8:45         Introductions, outline for the day-J. Davis
8:45-9:00         Background info-why all the interest-J.Davis
9:00-10:15       Hops 101: How to grow hops-J.Davis and K.Gaskill
10:15-10:30     Break
10:30-11:45     Growing organic hops: A grower’s perspective-R.Pelczar and J.Wright
11:45-12:30     Economics and marketing-R.Pelczar, J.Wright, and J.Davis
12:30-1:30       Lunch
1:30-2:30         Open discussion about how to get started, sharing experiences
2:30-3:00         Wrap up, evaluation
3:30-4:30         Highland Brewery-home brewing will be covered there



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Medicinal Herb Buyers and Growers Connect! What a Great Conference

On September 14, 2013 we held a historic conference in Asheville, NC.  A large group of us have been working for many years to help grow the western NC natural products industry, from seed to finished product. Some parts of that process have been moving along quite nicely, but we were still struggling with sourcing local raw materials for manufacturers. Buyers were looking for growers but didn't know where to find them and growers were looking for buyers and didn't have a clue who they were.

This event was designed to help connect current and potential medicinal plant growers with manufacturers and raw material buyers. It featured panels of new and experienced medicinal herb growers and natural products buyers/manufacturers to discuss their unique experiences, challenges, goals, and needs as it relates to natural products and raw materials. There was time for discussions between growers and buyers.  There was also a presentation on the new Blue Ridge Naturally branding effort, created to raise the awareness of the superiority of botanical raw materials and quality natural products (personal care, pet care, cleaning, tinctures and supplements, functional food and beverages) from the Blue Ridge Mountains region of North Carolina.

The event drew over 110 people and was, in my opinion, very successful. There was enthusiasm and lots of networking going on. The next step will be to design a way for growers and buyers to continue to network and form relationships. This will probably involve a web based program that everyone can subscribe to. Although there will be an open forum section, most agreed that there also needs to be a way that business transactions cam take place in a more private setting, probably with a trusted coordinator so buyers and growers could keep prices, quantities, and other business issues off the open forum. We used a similar model years ago and will try to build on what we did then.
People who attended the conference and many who could not make it asked for some kind of proceedings from the event. I took notes on my laptop as I moderated the event. All the panel participants agreed that making these notes available to the public would be helpful. Please keep in mind I was taking notes while moderating the event, so they are not professional proceedings and often written in short-hand, but they will give you a good idea of what took place at the meeting.

There will be follow-up events and actions, so stay tuned. If you want to discuss this more, please contact my employee who is leading this project: Alison Dressler, or 828-684-3562. Following this blog will help you stay current.

Can You Mix Serenade with Copper? Organic Farmers Want to Know

On several occasions this summer the question was posed to me if it was okay to mix the fungicide Serenade with copper. Serenade is a biological fungicide that is OMRI approved and can be used in certified organic production systems. I have used Serenade tank-mixed with copper for many years in my studies (Organic Heirloom Studies) and on my own farm. At an organic tomato workshop this summer, one of the attendees said that Serenade and copper should not be mixed together because the copper would inactivate the Bacillus subtilis in the Serenade, rendering it ineffective. When I returned to my office I did a Google search on the topic and indeed found two university extension articles and several non-professional articles that said the two products should not be mixed because the copper would inactivate the Bacillus subtilis.

Concerned that I might not be giving out the best information, I contacted my resident plant pathologist who passed my question on to the folks at Bayer CropScience.  Dr. Dennis Warkentin quickly responded, and with his permission, here is what he said,

 "...please be assured that it is perfectly fine to tank-mix Serenade and copper.  The Serenade product brands (ASO, Max, and Optimum) contain fungicidal lipopeptides and bactericidal molecules that are metabolites of the Bacillus, and production of these compounds is maximized during the fermentation process.  Our proprietary strain of Bacillus subtilis, QST 713, produces the highest level of lipopeptides of any other known strain.  When used as a foliar application, it is these metabolites – not the Bacillus spores -- that provide the protective benefit against pathogens on leaf and fruit surfaces.  The organism itself actually has a very short lifespan on foliar surfaces where it is exposed to UV light, and does not colonize above-ground plant surfaces.  (Serenade Soil, on the other hand, does sporulate in the soil in response to root exudates, colonizing growing roots and offering a physical protective barrier as well as extended lipopeptide production). 

The bottom line is, copper has no effect on the metabolic chemical ingredients of Serenade that are giving the disease protection, so has no detrimental effect on the product’s above-ground performance.  Inactivation of the Bacillus spores, whether it occurs or not, is of no concern."

Dr. Denise Manker, also of Bayer CropScience, asked me to add that that there is also no loss of foliar activity due to UV/sunlight.

So, those of us who find Serenade plus copper to be effective can continue to use it without concern that we are losing some activity as a result and others might want to try it out next season. Remember that according to the National Organic Program, copper must be used in a manner that minimizes accumulation in the soil.

And thank you to Dr. Warkentin and Dr. Manker for the speedy replies!