PNW hop acreage up 16 percent

Hops growing up their twine on trellises north of Prosser, Wash., May 20. Growers are pushing ahead with more acreage this year to meet demand.

YAKIMA, Wash. — Hop acreage in Washington, Oregon and Idaho will increase 16 percent this year as growers continue to try to meet growing demand from an increase in small, craft breweries.

Total acres strung for harvest are 43,987 up from 38,011 in 2014, according to a June 1 forecast released by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service on June 10.

Washington is at 32,205 acres up 3,347 from last year. Oregon is 6,807 up 1,397 from last year and Idaho is 4,975 up 1,232.

If those numbers are realized it will be the third highest total harvested acreage on record, NASS said. Washington is 73 percent of the national crop, Oregon is 16 percent and Idaho 11 percent.

Acreage increased about 10 percent a year for the past three years. Growth of craft breweries is expected to continue to 2020.

Acreage is not only increasing but continuing to shift away from high alpha varieties large brewers prefer to aroma varieties for the small brewers, said Pete Mahony, director of supply chain management and purchasing for John I. Haas, Yakima. It’s a leader in hop growing, processing, research and development.

Previously, Mahony and others have warned of a potential shortage of high alpha hops but now Mahony says Germany likely will pick up the slack when large brewers re-enter the market.

Large brewers became oversupplied with C02 extract of high alpha in 2008 and 2009 and are still reducing their inventory, he said.

Germany has a new high alpha variety called Hercules that is better yielding than CTZ, the main high alpha in the U.S., Mahony said.

“We feel that with the expansion of that (Hercules) when the big brewers come back, Germany will make up much of the shortfall we may have in the U.S.,” he said.

The larger issue, he said, is tightness of available land in traditional growing areas in the Pacific Northwest and enough plant capacity to process larger volumes of aroma varieties that have tighter harvest windows.

“Growers need a balance of early, mid and late maturing varieties. Therefore, varietal mix on the farms is of increasing importance as acreage shifts further into aroma, effectively shrinking the harvest window,” he said.

Growers are expanding facilities but it costs millions of dollars, he said.

Summit, CTZ and Super Galena are the high alpha varieties of greatest acreage decline and Simcoe, Centennial, Mosaic and Citra are the aroma varieties of greatest increase, according to NASS.

The 2015 crop is reportedly very good with normal pest and disease pressure, NASS said.

In Washington’s Yakima Valley growers are using efficient drip irrigation to conserve water and are supplementing normal irrigation supplies with groundwater, NASS said. Oregon and Idaho have adequate water in hop growing areas, the agency said.

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