"Big Shoes to Fill"

Peter Darby, Consultant to the British Hop Association

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Peter Darby was appointed in 1981 to take over the mantle of hop breeding at Wye College, Kent. UK. This program had seen the birth of scientific hop breeding in 1906 with the pioneering work of Professor Salmon, continued in 1953 by Dr. Neve. Throughout, the program has been characterized by innovation, and the varieties and techniques developed are still found in the work of all the main hop breeding programs today. A personal account is given here of the changing nature of hop breeding at Wye College, and its successor Wye Hops Ltd., over the last 38 years—a period when the brewing industry itself has undergone huge changes. The drivers for hop breeding, the funding sources, the objectives, and the techniques available in 1981 are described and compared with these same parameters at play today. The presentation illustrates how some objectives have changed completely: some have newly appeared whilst others have evolved and developed. Finally, it speculates on the imminent revolution in hop breeding with the advent of increasing mobile computing power and inexpensive genetic analysis tools: two factors which were unimagined in 1981.