Hop Breeding (2014)

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

This is a continuation of the hop breeding experiments that I first wrote about in 2013. If you are wondering why someone would bother growing hops from seed – go check out that post.

Hop pollen

Last year, I was fortunate to start a few plants from native neomexicanus seed obtained from plants growing wild in Wyoming and Colorado. These plants are doing well, but as first-year plants, did not produce pollen/seeds of their own. Instead, I was able to obtain pollen from a female hop plant. Yes – a female plant!

Under stress, many hop plants will throw male flowers. This “gender swap” is a survival tactic for dioecious plants in times of drought or other environmental problems. It can allow them to create offspring, even when no other plants are around. Growers of hops close cousin, cannabis, will often stress plants to create feminized pollen for breeding purposes. However, with hops, this pollen is rarely viable. As a commercial grower told me: “the monoecious plants never have viable pollen… Though in botany, you should never really say never”. And, for the most part, I found this to be true. Many previous experiments with feminized pollen failed to produce any seeds.

A new generation of seed

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 12.39.09 PMIn 2013, I decided to try again. This time, with pollen collected from various sources.

Only one set of the pollen resulted in any seed formation (let’s call her “Jane” Doe). The pollen was applied  to a burrs (immature cones) on each of my plants with a small brush. Paper bags were used to mark the pollinate cones and keep them isolated. At the end of the year, many of the cones contained seeds!

Hop seedHop seed - sproutedOut of the seeds collected, many were not viable – being soft, or even hollow. The others were sorted, sterilized and placed in the refrigerator to stratify. After nearly 4 months they were placed in soil to sprout (2014-02-11). Before planting, the seeds were examined for signs of life. Several of the seeds had indeed already started to sprout – very exciting!

I will continue to update this page as thing progress.

Update: 02/26

The germination rate was around 50%, though more may still sprout. Out of that, about 20 of the young seedlings are thriving. Many have already developed their second sets of leaves. There is also one very special sprout in the group. This happy little mutant popped open with four cotyledon (rather than 2) and continued on to develop four true leaves at the first node. We’ve nicknamed her “Hydra”.

From what I can gather, quadrifoliate traits can be attributed to either genetic mutations, or environmental factors during seed development. If the latter is true, she’ll probably revert to a bifoliate pattern at some point – but, we can always hope.

Normal hop sprout (bifoliate)

Normal hop sprout (bifoliate)

Hydra: quadrifoliate mutant

Hydra: quadrifoliate mutant

Need to be planted

Need to be planted



New growth

New growth


To help me track things… NHB = Nagmay Hop Breeding. 001-004 were sprouted last year.

ID Cross (♀ x ♂) Sprout True leaves Potted Planted Notes
NHB005 Jane x Cascade 01 2014-02-01 02-12 03-25 04-06
NHB006 Jane x Cascade 02 2014-02-02 02-14 03-25 04-06
NHB007 Jane x Cascade 03 2014-02-02 02-14 03-25 04-06
NHB008 Jane x Cascade 04 2014-02-02 03-25 04-06 Dead
NHB009 Jane x Cascade 05 2014-02-04 03-25 04-06 Dead
NHB010 Jane x Cascade 06 2014-02-04 02-15 03-25 04-06
NHB011 Jane x Cascade 07 2014-02-06 02-23 03-25 04-06
NHB012 Jane x Cascade 08 2014-02-06 02-20 03-25 04-06
NHB013 Jane x Cascade 09 2014-02-06 02-20 03-25 04-06
NHB014 Jane x Cascade 10 2014-02-08 02-21 03-25 04-06
NHB015 Jane x Cascade 11 2014-02-12 02-23 03-25 04-06
NHB016 Jane x Cascade 12 2014-02-14 02-18 03-25 04-06
NHB017 Jane x Cascade 13 2014-02-18 02-24 03-25 04-06
NHB018 Jane x Cascade 14 2014-02-18 02-22 03-25 04-06 Quadrifoliate. “Hydra”
NHB019 Jane x Chinook 01 2014-02-06 02-14 03-25 04-06 Spikes on leaf margin
NHB020 Jane x Chinook 02 2014-02-07 02-14 03-25 04-06
NHB021 Jane x Chinook 03 2014-02-08 02-20 03-25 04-06
NHB022 Jane x Chinook 04 2014-02-08 02-21 03-25 04-06
NHB023 Jane x Chinook 05 2014-02-12 02-25 03-25 04-06
NHB024 Jane x Chinook 06 2014-02-13 02-26 03-25 04-06
NHB025 Jane x Chinook 07 2014-02-14 02-28 03-25 04-06
NHB026 Jane x Sterling 01 2014-02-07 02-24 03-25 04-06 Conjoined cotyledon
NHB027 Cascade x OP 01 2014-03-20 03-24 05-26 OP = Open Pollinated
NHB028 Cascade x OP 02 2014-03-20 03-26  05-26

4 Responses to “Hop Breeding (2014)”

  1. sivrat Says:

    Hi Gabriel

    I have been following your posts with great interest and look forward to seeing your results. I would love to do something similar. would you be open to trade or swap for a few seeds? I live on the otherside of the world and hop plants are not available out here, hence my asking.

    Email me if you are keen.

  2. nagmay Says:

    All the seeds are planted for this year, but I would be open to trading pollen/seeds at a later time. I’ll contact you directly to get more info.

  3. gabriel nagmay (dot com) | Archive » Growing hops from seed Says:

    […] Note: this is from 2013. You might also be interested in the 2014 breeding experiments… […]

  4. Adam Edwards Says:

    I am so glad someone is taking a lead in this at a more approachable level. I am the one who wrote the names from Homebrewtalk.
    Let’s make Zoidberg hop a reality! :)

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