Planting hops (agrochemicals, roots, marking, drilling)

05.06.2017 14:48

Planting hops (agrochemicals, roots, marking, drilling)


Ing. Miloslav Klas, CSc., Ing. Michaela Klasová, Miloslav Klas, jr., Štěpán Klas

Ltd. Agricultural Society Chrášťany, Chrášťany 270 01 Kněževes,Czech republic,



This article came out in Chmelařství 4-5/2017


Planting hops (agrochemicals, roots, marking, drilling)


Research was carried out regarding nutrient contents in soils on which hops are cultvated in several vertical horizons (0-15 cm, 15-30 cm, 30-45 cm, 45-60 cm, 60-75 cm, 75-90 cm) The research detected unevenness especially in P, K. It is important to remove this unevennes before the planting of (very deep plowing up to 1m depth, fertilization). It is advisable to form the root systém of hops at the time of planting. One way to achieve this is to excavate deep holes up to 80-90 cm deep. For these reasons several methods and machines were constructed and used with positive effect: 1) the technical means for marking the planting holes – hop marker 2) Hop (4 piece drill) drill for creating deep holes before planting, able to penetrate to of 80-90 cm

Key words: hops, planting, drilling, marking



1.1. Nutrient content and vertical distribution

According to previous analyzes and researches (soil layer 0-30 cm, 30-60 cm, 60-90 cm) an uneven deposition in some topsoil nutrients, especially P and K, to a lesser extent, SO4, Mg, Ca was found (Klas, 2015),  which is affected in a major by organic matter content of the soil and bedrock.

According to a more accurate analysis (Tab. No. 1) and researches (soil layer 0-15 cm, 15-30 cm, 30-45 cm, 45-60 cm, 60-75 cm, 75-90 cm) this deposition of nutrients is unique for each site (Klas, 2016), and always has its very precise logis as to why it is so. Vertical imbalance, especially P, K, Corg again confirmed (chart No. 1-7).

To illustrate (nutrient content in the horizon of 0-15 cm = 100%) we show preliminary results from the site 2 (k. ú. Chrášťany), potentially intended for planting hops in percentage terms, compared with one another (chart No. 7).

The contents of P, K (chart No. 1, 2) in soil horizons have a decreasing trend from the upper horizons towards the lower horizons and the difference is mainly due to very little vertical mobility of P unlike, somewhat larger, vertical mobility of K. An identical course for both graphs (chart No. 1, 2) signals the same way of bonding to the soil sorption complex and the total contents of P, K and their graphical representation (chart No. 1, 2) are almost identical to the graph of Corg (chart No. 6). This indicates the dependence of P, K in soil horizons on the contents of Corg (chart No. 7). This dependence was subsequently confirmed by calculating the mutual correlations (chart No. 8, 9). It was confirmed that the increase in content of P, K is limited by the content of soil organic matter, expressed as Corg. It therefore won´t be effective to try to increase the fertility of the soil by fertilization by P, K without increasing Corg, therefore without organic fertilization.

Vertical disparity of Ca, Mg (chart No. 3, 4) are significantly smaller than that of P, K, and already have a different course thanks to the particular properties of soil horizons (partially 45-60 cm, mainly 60-75 cm), where is due to the low cation exchange capacity (CEC) the lowest content of Ca, Mg. Properties the especially of the 60-75 cm horizon may be caused by the existence of a compacted layer or by a less suitable soil composition. Corrective action can therefore be made by deep tillage or even better by very deep plowing up to 1 m deep, which disturbs the horizon with unfavourable properties, removes the local soil compation and breaks it into more soil horizons.

S content in soil horizons (chart No. 5) is caused by the great mobility and water soluability of and so there is a given need  for annual replenishment with a regular fertilisation of hop with essential nutrients, among which we add S, but also the above-mentioned Ca, Mg, which are also vertically mobile in the soil profile, but substantially less than S, which is the most mobile, and thus has the greatest disparity between the contents of soil horizons (chart No. 7).

These findings apply to just for one station, where the analyzes and evaluation were executed and where the hop planting is planned. When investigating new sites i tis neccesary to carry out new analyzes, and these again need to be carefully evaluated. General validity can also be based on other investigations which have already been held with the expected findings regardng localization of P, K, Corg. in the soil profile and mutual relations of P, K, and Corg. Furthermore,  the great mobility of S associated with a highly variable content of the soil horizons can be extended to other sites. At all sites, it can  be generally assumed that Corg. has a dominant influence on soil and agrochemical properties of the site.



2.1. Vertical storing nutrients, plant roots, the effect on the yield of hops

In roughly the last two decades the the technology of minimazation is widely used across the spectrum of crops (mostly canola, wheat, but also hops), which loosens the soil, but soil layers of not mixed. Related to this is also now very well known and problematic soil compaction. Appropriate countermeasure is deep tillage. For less mobile nutrients (P, K) and soil components (Corg) accumulation in the upper layers still occurs despite these measures, where the nutrients are of limited utility. This may cause nutritional deficiency and stagnation or decline in revenue in hop cultivation.

From the practical cultivation of hops this hypothesis is only outlined by annual analyzes  of plants, which sometimes (especially drier years) indicate the lack of essential elements (K, Ca, Mg, as well as P).

Although they are apparently present in the soil - provisional methodology analyzes layer only up to about 30-40 cm, 30-110 cm layer is examined only in N content). Signs from other spectrum of crops are clearer, here the signaling crop is winter rape due to the characteristics of its root system (sensitivity to compaction) but at the same time having excellent ability of the root system to take in nutrients (and extensive habitat) which is significantly better than that of winter wheat.

It is interesting to note that during the annual evaluation of the highest yields of winter oilseed rape (SPZO in the whole country) the set of record revenues of almost coincides with the set which utilized plowling. Minimization set then achieves record revenues when it coincides with the use of so-called fertilisation under the heel (10-15 cm mid-and lower-15-25 cm soil horizons). Partly this hypothesis is confirmed by the data on yields of winter rape for the year 2016, which can be seen as an example of available data from Chrášťany Agricultural Society Ltd. (Klasová, 2016) - the total area of 222 ha. 41% of the total area  was fertilized under the heel (Tab. No. 2).

A direct, demonstrable relation between the mass of roots and yield of the crop was found, this dependence is particularly strong in crops perennial, but does not apply to most annuals (Peter, J., Černý, V., Hruška, L. et al., 1980).

Using set theory and assuming abstracting from the effects of other components (meteorological influences, variety, agri-cultural technology etc.). We have tried to establish and describe the different variants of relationships and functions between:

·                A - set of soil nutrients in hop-garden

·                B - set root hop plants

·                Ych - the yield of hops

·                A ∩ B - the intersection of A and B

Similar modeling, but in the form of analyzes of large numbers and complex mathematical relationships, it is also used in the analysis of agricultural systems (Kudrna, 1985). Then we model variants situation after planting and hop yield as a function of the size of the intersection of two sets at the local sites and various variants of the vertical distribution of nutrients (chart No. 10, 11, 12):

Option 1 - site 1, low absolute nutrient content, vertical disproportion  of nutrient content

                                        Chart No. 10


Option 2 - site 2, high absolute nutrient content, without eliminating disparities vertical content of nutrients

                                        Chart No. 11


Option 3 - site 2, after the elimination of vertical disparities of nutrient content

                                     Chart No. 12


(A3 ∩ B3 ) > (A2 ∩ B2) > (A1 ∩ B)

Ych = (A ∩ B)

Ych3  > Ych2  > Ych1


When growing hops this fact should be taken into account and the whole technology of cultivation (site selection, establishment hop-gardens, agrotechnics) on the basis of these assumptions should find the right starting point. Any yield effect of the hops can be estimated at approximately 15%, while large deficits and differentiation up to 20 %. This rather conservative estimate is consistent with earlier findings, exclusively in hops cult. (Duchoň, F., 1948).

That's why we as hops growers changed our existing agricultural technologies, based on findings and assumptions the above. We have already started to use new practices, where we return to the very deep plowing hop fields before setting up the trellis. In the hop fields with already running production for several years, we perform annual autumn  plowing, even in combination with the deep tillage (inestabilished hop-gardens deep tillage is carried out before plowing.

Where deep plowing before planting is not possible (short renewal cycle), we perform all operations available, but they are not yet sufficient, they can not completely replace the very deep plowing. These are deep plowing with fertilizing, deep tillage with the application of fertilizers (or a combination of deep plowing and deep tillage) furthermore, it is the practice of drilling deep holes for the planting which should help the rapid formation of the root system along with fertilizing under the rhizomes.

In the next part of this work we focus on some aspects of the technology used before planting hops and planting technology itself, where we have developed some of our own procedures and technical devices that respond to the abovementioned proposals, findings and assumptions.



3.1.  Agrotechnics before planting

3.1.1. Use of deep tiller without crumbling effect

Tilling with the older types of tillers that do not have the crumbling and mixing effect we consider agriculturally inadequate because the compacted layer of arable topsoil is disturbed, but it is just cut up into some sort of larger or smaller "blocks" that have roots cannot easily penetrate and successfully root (Fig. 1). Soil and its upper and lower layers are of course not mixed, soil disproportion in the vertical nutrient content is not as resolved at all.

Fig. 1 - Tilling with the deep tiller without a crumbling effect (October 2014).


3.1.2. Loosening depth loosener with crumbling effect

Tiller with crumbling effect (Fig. 2) no longer able to land cross segment into parts that already matter roots hop propagating in successful initial growth, the soil and the layers are vertically inverted only a very small part (it indicates that it is achieved a maximum of 15-20 % of the effect of plowing where soil layers are reversed). Some of fertilizer nutrients (especially P, K, Corg), which are administered before surgery, remain only in the surface layers of soil (up to 30-35 cm).

Fig. 2 - Tilling with deep tiller with crumbling effect (September 2016).


3.1.3. Deep plowing

In comparison to any other tilling method the soil layers using deep plowing (fig. 3) are completely turned over and intermixed. Vertical imbalance of nutrients and Corg are balanced (especially P, K), which otherwise would have any type of operation or tilling, minimization or large doses of fertilizer P, Corg wouldn´t secure.

With a relatively small cost we can obtain a maximal effect, which is otherwise hardly obtainable over the lifetime of the hop. Deep plowing depth is suitable as far as the technical parameters of the plow and the agronomic properties of soil allows. Limits are therefore particularly:

a) Specifications of the plow - limit plowing ratio = 1,27, plowing ratio - k = b/a, b - shot blade, and - the depth of plowing (Friedman et al., 1973), the reason is to meet the agronomic requirement for turning, crushing, and swappping topsoil layers. For deep plows absolute minimum plowing ratio k = b/a = 1-0,7 is provided, but under these circumstances, their work resembles tillers. Technical parameters of larger deep plows allow to reach a depth of 70-80 cm, very rarely more.

b) The agronomic properties of the soil - the main barrier is the requirement to reduce the discharge of infertile subsoil, while manual labour would reached maximum depth of
95-110 cm (Zázvorka, Zima, 1956).

The supply fertilizing with organic matter and deficit nutrients should be commonplace. It appears appropriate to use a combination of very deep plowing (up to 100 cm) and very deep tilling (up to50-70 cm).

Fig. 3 - Deep plowing (October 2015) before planting of hops in 2016.


3.2. Intervals between plants while planting

Region of southwestern Rakovnicko and therefore k. ú. Chřásťany is optimal in terms of zoning hops rather marginal and this means that on average less productive than the typical hop locations. Intervals while planting are used in accordance with professional recommendations (Štranc, 2007) - for less productive positions and classical – non-remidiated planting 280 cm x 1 – 1,15 m, in productive positions and remediated planting of 2,8-3 m x 1,10–1,25 m.

A suitable intervals of hops are in constant debate among specialists, as well as in our company. Vintage variability of meteorological conditions sometimes has a greater influence on yield and quality of hops rather than intervals (Klas, 2016) Long-term results confirm the expert advice (do not use the same intervals for all locations).

3.3. The depth and method of planting

We do not use planting into shallow furrows, which is indeed very productive and initially ensures a very rapid emergence, but subsequently suitable conditions for the development of roots are not made, which are limited in particular by compacted sub-plow layers and the growth of hops may have with respect to poorly formed root system a limited life. This technology can also be performed only in optimum weather conditions, unlike drilling.

Planting is done using simple rooted rhizomes only in the autumn. In accordance with professional recommendations (Štranc, 2007) we perform planting hops into predrilled pits with a width of 30 cm. The perpendicular distance from the upper edge of the rhizome to soil surface should be 10 to 15 cm (heavier soils 10, the lighter 15 cm).

We found conclusive linkage between sizes ( width and depth) of planting space for the rhizome relative to its root system, wherein the prepared planting area should be at least 1,5 x, but rather 3-5x larger than the root system of the rhizome . The larger the planting area, the greater the energy of root growth (Štranc, 2007).

Literature recommended depth of the holes is at least 30-35 cm from the surface. The depth of the borehole 30-35 cm during normal width drill to max. 30 cm. Above requirement is not satisfied.

In our company are:

standard depths of holes of at least 60 cm, up to 90 cm using the width of width 30 cm of the borehole.


to promote energy of root growth of hopsin the early stages,

formation of roots and directing roots into the lower layers of topsoil and subsoil

creation of high-capacity root system, which ensures fast, even and long lasting hops yield at a given location.



4.1. Description of the status quo

There is currently no avaible productive technology of planting hops (but not even vines and orchards) using a drill. There are only single-drill machines with a working depth of up to max. 50-60 cm, but more often to 30-35 cm. Technology of planting hops through a drill method also suffers from high labor input for manual marking of drilling locations and low productivity also caused by reliability of the machines (complicated and faulty hydraulics) using single drill systems. There is no technology or machinery to mark the places for planting, including vines, orchards, forests and other crops. Automatic or semiautomatic planters are still complicated and difficult to use for specific properties of hop rhizomes.

Therefore we have in our company are focused on shortening the time required for each operation when planting using deep-drilling:

a) The device for marking of plant spacing (marker)

    New, original and yet non-existent device was designed and verified in operation (in operation 2014, 2015, 2016).

b) Equipment for drilling deep holes

We have developed and validated a new, more productive and agriculturally suitable technical solution for drilling deep holes for planting (in service 2015, 2016).    

4.2. Equipment for the marking of plant spacing – The marker

The machine (Fig. 4, 5) requires traction means 50-70 HP (1HP= 0,746 kW). The crew consists of a tractor driver, further a mechanical operator of the marker. The marking crew consists of 4 people. Together are therefore required 2 + 4 = 6 people. Daily effectivity of the (8,5 hours working time) marking device is about 3 ha (cycle = 1 marking space "from column to column" = 45 s = 2 x 6-8 marks = 12-16 marks). Two passes (there and back) are required to mark out the space between the two rows. Marking is done with saw dust. Spacing of holes in the row adjustable from 1 to 1,5 m, spacing of rows of 2,7 to 3 m. The anchor area of the front and the side of the structure marking is carried out manually.

Fig. 4 - Hop marker - technical design is registered and protected against unauthorized use of the territory of the Czech Republic and the EU.



· increase of the daily output compared to the classical method of marking (for about 3-5 times)

· greater accuracy,

· operability.


· high requirement for precision of crew

· uneasy readjustment of spacing of holes in a row,

· currently the need for more manpower than ultimately neccesary (Manual Handling of sawdust).

Agro-technical requirements:

1. it is necessary for the trellis to be precisely aligned because the machine uses the structure as guidance

2. dry inert marking material (preferably dry was dust) – otherwise there is a possibility of clogging

Organizational requirements:

1. it is appropriate that whoever marks to also carry out following operations ie. Drilling and planting.

Fig. 5 - Marking holes (October 2014).


4.3. The equipment for digging deep holes - the four-piece drill

Fig. 6 - Hop dril - technical design is registered and protected against unauthorized use of the territory of the Czech republic and the EU.


Machinery (Fig. 6 - 10) requires pulling power at least 90 HP (1 HP = 1,746 kW), crew consists of two people. During a shift of 8,5 hours the machine can dril 3000 holes (1 cycle = 4 holes 80-90 cm deep = 38 seconds), which is about about 1 ha prepared for planting. During an extended shift (10,5 hours) and after the crew is familiar with the machine (1 cycle = 4 deep wells 80-90 cm = 30 seconds) the machine can prepare 1,3-1,5 hectares for planting. Higher output is no longer appropriate with regard to possible reduction in the quality of work (smaller depth of the hole, breaking or bending of the drill).

Fig. 7 - Drilling of holes (October 2015).


A lower number of holes in the space between columns than 2 x 4 = 8 (for example
4 + 2 = 6 or 4 + 3 = 7) with the machined can be solved by simply removing the drill on one pass.

Hop block is therefore processed:

a) Without adjusting of drills - 1st Run 4 (3) holes. Second pass 4 (3) holes (Fig. 7, 8, 9)

b) With adjustment of drills - 1st Run 4 (3) holes + Second pass 2 to 3 (2) holes, this means first pass around the block with a full set of drills and the second pass with detached a detached drill (Fig. 10).

Fig. 8 - Drilling holes (October 2015).

Fig. 9 - Drilling holes (October 2015).


Blade drills (shape, slope, angle, width of helix) was calculated and designed in accordance to soil conditions of the company, and has been verified using "single drill" vineyard and orchard drills. Custom design drill (blade width, slope) is better than previously used.

Fig. 10 - Drilling holes (November 2016).



· quality, wide and deep enough (at least 60   cm, but rather 80-90 cm) hole,

· relatively high performance, almost 100% germination of hops

· agitation of bottom soil and sub-plow layers,

· proper formation of rhizomes - holes in the spring of next year slightly collapse
   (8-15-20 cm below the surrounding plains) and forme a hole that holds water and forms protection for germinating hop  against drought and deer,

· technology is applicable both in very dry conditions (2015 - Fig. 7-9) and wet and with partially frozen soil (2016 - Fig. 10 ).



· drills can be damaged by old concrete slabs used under the old poles

· general intensive service care


Agro-technical requirements:

1. to avoid in particular the "drowning" hop rhizomes (the risk of late or incomplete emergence, hop rhizome then - about 3-4 years - grows into place and may reduce yield –    the rhizome dring germination still forms (circular motion from lower layers into final position set by cultivation and cutting).

2. Neccesity of  application of complex fertilizer (composition according to analyzes and soil needs - a proven combination of P, N, K, Ca, Mg and trace elements) "under the rhizomes" (dosage and application by hand").

3. First, in the pre-drilled the fertilizer is applied, the holes needs to be partially filled with soil, so the rhizome laid on this layer is held and then the hole is filled in so the rhizome is burried 10-15 cm under the terrain.


Organizational requirements:

1. To plant 1-1,5 hectares (after normal daily performance of 4-piece-drill) 8-10 (4-5 teams of two) people are required to plant the rhizomes themselves.

2. A precise record systém where a team was planting (x and y axis of the trellis numbered into blocks), subsequent motivational rewards for germination rate of hops (wage scale as a combination hourly rate, number of planted rhizomes and number of germinated rhizomes).

3. Evaluation is done in 4.-5. month of the following year and subsequent premium wage (very motivational) is always correctly paid to workers (or shortened).



5.1Vertical difference nutrient content - vertical measurements of nutrient content in horizons 0-15, 15-30, 30-45, 45-60, 60-75, 75-90 of P, K and Corg proved unequal deposition  to the detriment of the lower soil horizons.

5.2. Means for removing vertical differential nutrients - important mean to eliminate inequality nutrient content of the hops is targeted agrotechnic - plowing, deep plowing and targeted ways of P, K and Corg deposition.

5.3. The vertical difference of nutrients and planting hops - one of the important means to eliminate inequality in nutrients and to ensure strong root systém is a way of builing hop fields, especially the deep drilling  to a depth of 60-90 cm  and a 30 cm wide hole.

5.4. Equipment for the marking of plant spacing - was developed and proved under operating conditions in 2014, 2015, 2016 ( the hop marker. Daily performace of marking the hop field before drilling is 3 hectares, sawdust is used as a marker.

5.5. Equipment for drilling deep holes - was developed and tested under operating conditions in the years of 2015 and 2016. (The four-piece hop dril. The drill can simultaneously create up to four deep holes 60-90 cm with the width of the bore hole of 30 cm. Daily output is 1–1,5 hectares of deep holes for planting.


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1) Methodological recommendations for planting chmele, Hop Institute 24. 10. 2016


2) Planting hop - Štranc et al, 1st edition, Prague, 2007, ČZU, Kurent Ltd.

    Available at:

3) Effect of meteorological elements on yield and quality of hop -  Klas, M., 2016, business analysis, unpublished, Chrášťany Agricultural Society Ltd.

4) Agrochemical soil properties hop garden, Klas, M., 2015 Chmelařství 4th edition 2015, available at:

5) Agricultural systems, Kudrna, K., second edition, Prague, 1985, the State Agricultural Publishing

6) Agrochemical soil properties at a vertical analyzes - cobs., 2016, unpublished, business analysis, Chrášťany Agricultural Society Ltd.

7) Chmelařství - Zázvorka, V., Zima, F., 1956, in Prague, the State Agricultural Publishing

8) Agricultural machinery I. - Theory and calculation - Friedman, M. et al., 1973, Prague, Czech Agricultural Publishing

9) Analysis of the yield of winter oilseed rape in 2016 - Klasová, 2016, business analysis Chrášťany Agricultural Society Ltd., unpublished

10) Minimization tillage - Hůla, J. Procházková B., et al. - Prague 2008, Profi Press Ltd.

11) Hop industry - Rybáček V., et al., Prague 1980, the State Agricultural Publishing

12) Yield formation of the main field crops - Peter, J., Černý, V., L. Hruška, et al., 1980, Prague, State Agricultural Publishing

13) The Great Encyclopedia of Agriculture - Nutrition and fertilization of crop farming, Part II., 3 F.  Duchoň, Prague 1948, the Czechoslovak Academy of Agriculture




The authors thank colleagues from the Agricultural Society Ltd. Chrášťany for valuable comments and suggestions, as well as patience and assistance in the production and operational testing of new technologies.


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