Kentucky looking at hops as potential crop

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles is turning attention to the potential of growing hops in the bluegrass state.

Quarles says the state Department of Agriculture is having discussions with the University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University to study the viability of hops production.

He says a growing craft brewery sector has created a market for Kentucky-grown hops. He says Kentucky’s number of craft breweries has grown more than 600 percent in the past five years.

Quarles says it’s important to work with universities on research to set best production methods for potential emerging crops such as hops.

Hops production was widespread in Kentucky, particularly northern Kentucky, until the early 20th century. Mildew, pests, droughts, and fluctuating prices forced hop producers in the eastern U.S. to cease operations or move to the Pacific Northwest.