Newswise — April 25, 2022 – Common hop – you might call it hops – is a main ingredient in beer responsible for its rich flavor profile. Craft brewers and larger manufacturers alike are always looking for that new flavor. The April 22nd 2022 Sustainable, Secure Food Blog explains the breeding efforts that go into those new flavors – and there is additional work being done to make varieties of hop that are disease resistant, as well as drought and heat tolerant.

According to blogger John Henning, while hop is important in the beer industry, not a lot of research has focused on creating a genetic profile of the crop. Over the past decade, several breeders, including Hennig, have focused on creating genetic maps that outline “markers” to help guide us in our breeding.

Currently, we have only determined the markers for a few hop traits for use in our programs. Some important markers we know for hops are:

  • Sex – this is important because only female lines are cultivated
  • Disease resistance – we know the markers for Hop Powdery Mildew, Hop Downy Mildew
  • Plant height – this is important because dwarf hops can be grown on a short trellis as a hedge—significantly reducing labor inputs
  • Alpha acid levels – these contribute to the bittering potential that a hop will contribute to brewing
  • Prevalent essential oils – these are more compounds that contribute to the flavor of beer

Recent developments in genomic tracing have lowered the cost of the process. More of these traits – and others soon to be identified – will be implemented into routine breeding. This is true for both the public breeding programs as well as private endeavors.

Early efforts at hop genome assembly were only recently published (2015) and the first true draft genome published last year (2020). As a result, efforts at marker development for hops are still in their infancy stage in hops. And this is for only of few of the simpler traits—those controlled by one or just a few genes. Some traits are controlled by three or more genes, which dramatically increases the complexity of gene expression and makes selection for traits much more difficult.

This blog is based on Dr. Henning’s paper about the development of “074” published in the Journal of Plant Registrations.

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About us: This blog is sponsored and written by members of the American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America. Members are researchers and trained, certified professionals in the areas of growing the world’s food supply while protecting the environment. Members work at universities, government research facilities, and private businesses across the United States and the world.

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