OSCII Activity B.18

Impact of organic fertilization on growth and yield of secondary hop compounds intended for food and nutraceutical processing

Activity summary

Although mainly known for their importance in the production of beer, hops (Humulus lupulus L.) have been known for their medicinal value since the 8th century. Hops have secondary metabolites, prenylated acylphloroglucinols (α and β acids), which are responsible for the bitterness and aroma of beer. However, the leaves and cones also contain active molecules (prenylated flavonoids, xanthohumol, isoxanthohumol, proanthocyanidins, epicatechins) with equally recognized nutraceutical properties: sedative and soporific properties, antimicrobial activity (against gram positive bacteria), anti-inflammatory activity, antitumoural activity and antioxidant action that can reduce the occurrence of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. The amount of nutraceutical compounds in plants varies, however, from one cultivar to another and based on growing conditions.

Despite the growing demand for locally grown organic hops, most of the hops used in Canada are currently being imported from New Zealand or China. This strong growth in the demand for organic hops (~300%) can be explained by the popularity of microbreweries, new demand from the cosmetics and phytotherapy industries, and their potential use as an antimicrobial agent in animal feed. Producing organic hops for the nutraceutical industry would make it possible to meet the demands for an emerging niche market in Canada and to satisfy the demand from microbreweries for organic hops.

The general objective of this study is, therefore, to develop an organic fertilization system for hop production destined for the processing and nutraceutical industries, as well as the selection of cultivars that are best adapted to an organic growing system. More specifically, this study proposes to:

  1. Develop an organic fertilization system that integrates a green legume crop in order to limit external nutrient input and increase soil quality and activity;
  2. Better respond to the plant's regular nutrient needs during its active growth period;
  3. Identify cultivars adapted to this type of production (elevated levels of compounds of nutraceutical interest) and the least sensitive to diseases and pests; and
  4. Evaluate the beneficial effects on soil quality from the addition of biochar, the plant's effective use of nutrients, the occurrence of disease in the plants and the productivity and quality of the cones.

This study will be conducted in a commercial environment at La Houblonnière Gosselin in Ste-Sophie d’Halifax, Plessisville, Québec in collaboration with researchers from Université Laval and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada who are associated with the Horticultural Research Centre at the Institute of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods. The know-how developed over the course of this study will make it possible to propose a sustainable production system to businesses in which the cones and leaves are of very high quality for the processing and nutraceutical industries: high yields of superior quality, optimized management of nitrogen and phosphorus, more effective use of nutrients, reduced nutrient emissions in the environment, and better plant tolerance to pathogenic agents, insects and weeds.

Materials and Results to Date

  • Organic and nutraceutical hops: Gosselin Hop Yard


Activity researchers

Name Affiliation

Martine Dorais, Activity Leader

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Horticulture Research and Development Centre
Yves Desjardin Université Laval
André Gosselin Université Laval

Contributing partners