Some Florida farmers eyeing hops as next niche crop

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By: Associated Press
August 15, 2016

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.

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