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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Quantitative genetic parameters for yield, plant growth and cone chemical traits in hop (Humulus lupulus L.)

Erin L McAdam1*, René E Vaillancourt1, Anthony Koutoulis1 and Simon P Whittock12

Author Affiliations

1 School of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 55 Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia

2 Hop Products Australia, 26 Cambridge Road, Bellerive, TAS 7018, Australia

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BMC Genetics 2014, 15:22  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-15-22

Published: 13 February 2014



Most traits targeted in the genetic improvement of hop are quantitative in nature. Improvement based on selection of these traits requires a comprehensive understanding of their inheritance. This study estimated quantitative genetic parameters for 20 traits related to three key objectives for the genetic improvement of hop: cone chemistry, cone yield and agronomic characteristics.


Significant heritable genetic variation was identified for α-acid and β-acid, as well as their components and relative proportions. Estimates of narrow-sense heritability for these traits (h2 = 0.15 to 0.29) were lower than those reported in previous hop studies, but were based on a broader suite of families (108 from European, North American and hybrid origins). Narrow-sense heritabilities are reported for hop growth traits for the first time (h2 = 0.04 to 0.20), relating to important agronomic characteristics such as emergence, height and lateral morphology. Cone chemistry and growth traits were significantly genetically correlated, such that families with more vigorous vegetative growth were associated with lower α-acid and β-acid levels. This trend may reflect the underlying population structure of founder genotypes (European and North American origins) as well as past selection in the Australian environment. Although male and female hop plants are thought to be indistinguishable until flowering, sex was found to influence variation in many growth traits, with male and female plants displaying differences in vegetative morphology from emergence to cone maturity.


This study reveals important insights into the genetic control of quantitative hop traits. The information gained will provide hop breeders with a greater understanding of the additive genetic factors which affect selection of cone chemistry, yield and agronomic characteristics in hop, aiding in the future development of improved cultivars.

Humulus lupulus L; Narrow-sense heritability; Genetic correlation; Hop acid; Dioecy; Quantitative genetics