General HOPBEL: development of local Belgian hop varieties
Belgian hop growers need new varieties suitable for our local conditions. Such varieties are being developed abroad (USA, Germany, Czech Republic), but growers can only make very limited use of them because of strict licenses. A Flemish consortium (Town of Poperinge, VZW Hop, Inagro, Vives University college and ILVO’s Plant & Soil Living Lab) therefore set up its own breeding program as part of a three-year Leader+ project (HopBel).
Local breeding allows us to respond to the current challenges in Belgian hop growing such as disease and drought tolerance while meeting the needs of the local brewing sector.
In 2017, ILVO started making the first crosses via wind pollination. Sufficient female varieties were available for this purpose (hops are dioecious), but there was a shortage of male hop plants. A widespread appeal was made to the general public to share the location of male hop plants. The success of that camapaign led to the creation of a broad collection of male hop plants at ILVO. The crosses were successful and the seed was then evaluated for disease resistance by Vives University College. Finally, Inagro sorted out the male and female offspring and performed the first assessment of the agronomic qualities of the seedlings.
Currently, the first selections have already been evaluated under field conditions at a number of growers for 2 seasons.
New hop varieties are necessary to preserve hop cultivation in Belgium. Through the HopBel consortium, the first steps have been taken and we are looking forward to the first harvests of the candidate varieties.
This successful collaboration is now being followed-up in the HopBel 2.0 project. Coordinator Inagro (coordinator) continues the development of these new hop varieties together with ILVO and Vives University College. A number of the new varieties will already undergo a first evaluation by the breweries. To be continued for sure!
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