Hutchinson’s agronomist Jonathan Blackman has been awarded the prestigious and internationally recognized Order of the Hops in recognition of his services to the industry for nearly 30 years.
Dating back to the Middle Ages, the award honors biennially individuals from countries belonging to the International Hop Growers Convention who have contributed to the development and prosperity of hop production in their country.
dr. Blackman, technical manager of horticulture at Hutchinsons and advising hop growers in Worcestershire and Herefordshire, received the ‘Chevalier’ award at the 58th International Hop Growers’ Convention in Prague on 28 July.
The Chevalier Prize is one of three ranks in the Order of the Hops, all of which recognize significant achievement within the industry.
“It was an honor to be nominated and accepted for this award,” said Dr. blackman. “I’ve been professionally involved in the industry for most of 30 years, but coming from a hop-growing family in Kent, I’ve been around hops all my life.”
dr. Blackman began his career with ADAS Rosemaund in 1994, where he led hops research for five years, before moving to Dalgety and then to Hutchinsons, where he has been supporting local hop growers with agronomic advice for over 20 years. At the time he was also secretary of his local Herefordshire Hop Discussion Group.
Former chairman Stephen Wright of The Hop Plant Company nominated Dr. Blackman for the prize.
“Like many hop growers, I feel that Jonathan has done everything in the hop industry over the years. He has performed secretarial duties for over twenty years and has organized speakers, farm walks and meetings.”
“All of the presidents who have served with Jonathan, myself included, have made life incredibly easy with all the preparatory work that has been done before. I truly believe that if it wasn’t for Jonathan, the group wouldn’t exist and it would be a huge detriment to the industry.”
dr. Blackman, who has been a member of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling for 25 years this year, acknowledged that there had been significant rationalization of the UK hop industry over the past 20-30 years, but was convinced there would be opportunities for it to continue. .
“When I started at Rosemaund there was just over 3,000ha of hops grown in the UK, now we have less than 700ha and about 40 growers across the country. It’s been a tough time for growers, especially with the pandemic, but there is a future for those who can handle it.”
He said the industry needed better prices and contracts that gave growers the confidence to invest and adapt to new trends. For example, many new beers are American-style pale ales and use hops from the US, rather than traditional varieties grown in the UK, which has historically supplied the cask ale market.
“The industry has invested heavily in plant breeding and there is a program in the UK to find varieties that the market wants and hopefully replace some of the imported US hops in the future.”
A greater focus on reducing beer’s carbon footprint could create new opportunities for domestic growers, where locally grown hops offer a better carbon footprint than imported hops, he added.
In addition to the position of Dr. Blackman at Hutchinsons, where he supports agronomic colleagues, also represents Hutchinsons in the AIC Commercial Horticulture Group, and independently is a Trustee of the Marden Fruit Show Society and a member of the Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food. In addition, he continues to work to address other pest and disease challenges with an increasingly limited arsenal.
He is currently a crop protection consultant with the British Hops Association, helping to obtain as many crop protection solutions as possible for UK growers through applications for off-label Small Use Authorization Renewal (EAMU) approvals. He has also initiated an Innovative Farmers project looking at integrated solutions for spider mite control.
Hutchinson CEO Mike Hutchinson concluded: “It is fantastic that the hop industry has chosen to honor Jonathan in this way. He has shown extraordinary dedication to hops and the wider horticultural industry for nearly 30 years. This is a great recognition for all the time, effort and expertise Jonathan has devoted to the industry.”
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