CAHNRS NewsCollege of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences
Grant aims for better hops, better beer
Published on November 17, 2021
PROSSER, Wash. – Good hops make good beer, so when hops improve, so does beer.
To help with that improvement, Washington State University is leading a new four-year, $4.8 million grant to advance hops and help hop growers.
“The Pacific Northwest produces nearly 40% of the world’s hops,” said Doug Walsh, the grant lead and professor in WSU’s Department of Entomology with an appointment in WSU Extension. “Washington itself produces almost as much hops as Germany now.”
That level of industry needs protection from disease, pests, and viruses. That’s where the new USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant comes in. USDA-NIFA chose this program, in part, to help develop disease and pest resistant hops that can be grown more sustainably.
“This is a big project with a big team with big goals to protect this valuable crop,” Walsh said.
The hops industry is also interested in biocontrols, or predatory insects that feed on damaging insects, such as spider mites. Walsh will work with a colleague at the University of Idaho to see what biocontrols work best.
Biocontrols have multiple benefits for hops growers, Walsh said. The craft beer market is also growing in many European countries.
“Resistance is building up in spider mites to common miticides,” he said. “But also, growers in the Pacific Northwest are exporting more hops to the European Union, which has different regulations compared to the U.S. To meet E.U. residue requirements, our growers need to use fewer pesticides. They have to adhere to rules here and in the E.U., and biocontrols can help do that.”
Tom Marsh, professor in WSU’s School of Economic Sciences, will complete studies on craft beer, especially consumers’ willingness to pay more for beers when brewers’ input costs, including hops, are increased because growers and brewers adopt more sustainable production practices.
Northwest hops growers have made the craft beer boom in the U.S. possible, and they want to do the same in other countries. Brewers love the hops grown in this region, and this grant will help sustain that momentum for years to come.