APOPKA, Fla. (AP) – With Florida’s iconic citrus industry struggling from a bacterial disease, some farmers are eyeing a new niche crop that taps into the country’s burgeoning beer-brewing business: hops.
Traditionally, Florida was considered too hot and humid to grow hops. About 95-percent of U.S. hops are grown in the cooler climes of Washington and the Pacific Northwest.
But a craft brewing explosion has pushed demand sky high, and as a result, shortages of popular hop varieties are common for smaller breweries.
University of Florida horticulturist Brian Pearson began doing research on a few hop plants 3 years ago.
Now he has hundreds of thriving plants, and there is some hope that Florida may have found a new niche crop.
Still, while promising, Pearson says more research is needed before Florida’s hops industry can take off.