Hop farmers in the Czech Republic have become especially susceptible to the impacts of climate change. The country is one of the world leaders in hop production with a tradition spanning over 1000 years. The majority of hops produced in the country are concentrated in the Saaz region. The Saaz hop plays a vital role in the industry by setting the standard with its delicate and soft aroma matched with a balanced and pleasant taste. The Saaz hop has an acid range of 2.5–6.5% and is recognised as the industry standard when assessing the quality of the crop.
Effects of climate change
Early signs of a changing climate have already impacted commercial hop production in the region, concerning yield and quality. In 2015 the Czech Republic was hit with a drought that resulted in a 34% reduction in hop production. The negative impacts of climate change are predicted to increase between now and 2100. These impacts include changes in temperature, the availability of water resources, and climate uncertainty. Hop farmers in the Saaz region are especially vulnerable due to having the majority of their crops concentrated in a comparatively small microclimate. Moreover, the mountains surrounding the region create a rain shadow, due to which the annual total rainfall is only around 450 mm.
Looking for a solution collectively
In 2019, Plzensky Prazdroj brought together all relevant stakeholders – representatives of relevant ministries, academia and experts – to discuss key issues and explore potential solutions that could help hop growers become more resilient against the effects of climate change. A wide range of options was considered, and availability of relevant data was identified as one of the aspects playing the crucial role.
Accessibility to tools that allow farmers to collect and interpret data on their agricultural activities are an essential part in securing the Saaz region’s future. In the pilot phase of the project, 45 weather stations have been installed at selected hop fields for the period of one full growing season to help farmers better assess the situation, predict weather conditions and make more precise decisions when taking care of the crop.
General approach to cooperation with farmers
- We source vast majority of ingredients (both barley and hops) locally, building on long-term direct contracts with Czech farmers. These are based on common trust and partnership, thus providing farmers with predictable conditions that allow them to plan long-term. Cooperation is not limited to business only, and includes also training and consultancy for farmers to help them run their businesses more efficiently.
- We brew “Czech Beer” in our breweries. “Czech Beer” is a protected geographical indication established in 2008 by the European Union, which guarantees high standard production procedures and the high quality of raw materials that need to be sourced locally.
- We support research done by the Research Institute of Brewing and Malting related to new varieties of Czech hops and barley and also the brewing qualities of the substances which are present in these crops.