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Hops hot topic at EARS open house

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Some 30 farmers, producers, and folks who are curious about agriculture turned out the Emo Agricultural Research Station for the open house held there last Wednesday (July 25).

Emo Agricultural Research Station (EARS) manager, Kim Jo Bliss didn't let the light rain put a damper on the outdoor tour where she took open house attendees around patches of hay, oats, canola, wheat, soybeans, hops, and malting barley.

The demonstration plots change each year Bliss noted that they always try to test out what new things they can grow.

The hops project was a hot topic at the tour, with farmers and non-farmers showing much interest in setting up a hops yard on their own lands.

“The hops right now have been a big attraction," Bliss said. ”Some people are interested in growing, and some are interested just because it's new.

“There's people who would like to grow some hops that are not [farmers] but they have acreage and might want to put in a small yard in their back field,” she added.

However, Bliss thinks most people might be hesitant to pull the trigger on growing hops for next year, until EARS harvests their own and markets them successfully.

They haven't ever harvested their hops before because this is the first year the hops have climbed, but EARS has plans to harvest the hops in the coming months, if there is any seed.

Bliss notes that the hops don't really take off until they're in their third to fifth year.

Regardless, she's happy to be broadening the research station's horizons.

“It's good that we're experimenting and trying to see what the outcome might be,” she lauded.

Running EARS hasn't been without it's difficulties, from bird's chipping away at the demonstration plots to tile drainage issues.

One of the patches grown to lessen the effects birds may have on other crops is sunflowers.

“We grow a plot of sunflowers and it's mainly just to try to attract birds to that plot,” Bliss explained.

"We have troubles with birds in our plots, so if we plant sunflowers we hope that the birds will spend more time in there then they will in our plots.

“The birds usually work from the outside in and our trials have guard plots around them so hopefully they will stay in there and then we'll be combining those [sunflowers] perhaps by the end of next week,” she added.

On the tile drainage front, there's been drainage issues, Bliss noted.

She said the main tile doesn't appear to be draining properly, but government funding for tile drainage could be in EARS' future.

Remo Pallottinin who visited EARS open house from Guelph, to assess the research being conducted there, said he thinks there will soon be grant opportunities for tile drainage.

“I'm really hoping that we're going to get it improved,” Bliss said.

Moving forward she is focused on getting ready for harvest.

“Harvesting of the cereal grain we'll be starting here near the middle of August and then soybeans won't be until the middle of September,” Bliss explained.

She is appreciative of everyone who came out and says they are welcome to stop by any time to learn more about the research being conducted there.

“Thanks to everybody for coming out," Bliss remarked. "We really do appreciate all the support.”

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