Agrivoltaic setups aren’t new to regular readers of this site as we’ve seen many times that certain crops benefit from the shade solar panels provide; and, the solar panels benefit the farmers by producing clean energy. Now we know that hops, which flavour beer, thrive under solar panels. A German experiment with a special solar setup for hops has proven more successful than expected since the hops fared better against disease.
Which crops thrive under solar panels depends on many factors, and for a crop like hops a default solar field setup is not a good one. Hops like to grow straight up which means that the solar panels need to be elevated high off the ground. The hops then grow up to the solar panels and get lots of benefit from the cooling effects of the panels themselves.
The pilot project — a collaboration between Wimmer and local solar technology company Hallertauer Handelshaus — was set up in the fall of last year. The electricity made at this farm can power around 250 households, and the hops get shade they’ll need more often as climate change turbocharges summer heat.
Solar panels atop crops has been gaining traction in recent years as incentives and demand for clean energy skyrocket. Researchers look into making the best use of agricultural land, and farmers seek ways to shield their crops from blistering heat, keep in moisture and potentially increase yields. The team in Germany says its effort is the first agrivoltaic project that’s solely focused on hops, but projects have sprouted around the world in several countries for a variety of grains, fruits and vegetables.
We all know that craft beers are delicious thanks to all their fun flavours and now we also know that by drinking craft beer we are helping the world of science. The search for hop plants, which are integral to craft beer, has pushed science to go further into examining the plant and it’s neighbours – that means the world of botany is expanding. The drive for more varieties of hops has even led to using old ideas in new ways around what medicinal practices hops can be used for!
Flavor is driving the hunt. But, as it turns out, Matthews himself is not only, or even mostly, interested in flavor. The scientific byways, and possible medical uses, are more intriguing to him: the hipster I.P.A. quaffers are, in effect, advancing the frontiers of pure science, enabling the sequencing of the hop genome, and funding ethnobotanical excursions. â€œI was just in Tbilisi, at the Georgian botanical garden,â€ Matthews said. â€œPeople in Georgia are still into agroforestryâ€”they pick wild strawberries and things in the forest. It turns out rural Georgians have for a long time used wild hops to cure their breads. Hops makes a powerful broad-spectrum antibiotic. It stops bacteria from souring the bread.â€
The Georgians have also used hops as a folk medicine for reproductive health, to treat uterine pain, for example. This makes sense to Matthews since hops contain the strongest known plant-derived estrogen. â€œWe are seeking to engineer it,â€ he said. â€œWe think it can be used for hormone-replacement therapyâ€”for example, in postmenopausal women.â€
Beer is delicious and has been a part of healthy living for years, but why is it good for us? Beer can provide mental benefits because it helps people relax and can bring temporary moments of joy. It also works on a physical level, which is what researchers have been looking into. The hops are one key ingredient that makes beer a healthy choice. Hops have been used in teas to improve physical health of individuals and are used in beer.
So drink it up! Just not too much.
In one study, appearing in theÂ Journal of Natural Products, a team of Italian researchers identified three previously unknown chemicals fromÂ Cascade hopsâ€”which are used in many American brews, but perhaps notably as a finishing hop inÂ Sierra Nevadaâ€™s Pale Ale. One of the chemicals has clear anti-inflammatory properties.
In a second study, presented this week at the American Chemical Societyâ€™s annual conference in San Diego, researchers from the University of Idaho report figuring out a streamlined procedure for makingÂ synthetic versionsÂ of two key hop chemicals,Â humuloneÂ andÂ lupulone, which are known to have antimicrobial and anticancer activity. With their artificial versions, the researchers plan to make an assortment of chemical tweaks to optimize the compounds for disease-busting drugs.