Public Hop Breeding Program Moves Forward

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The Brewers Association (BA) has announced the execution of a subaward designating the site for the public hop breeding program they are funding. The subaward between the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and Washington State University (WSU) designates the Irrigated Agriculture Research & Extension Center (WSU-IAREC) at Prosser as the operating partner facility.

The completion of the subaward represents phase two of the process to increase public hop breeding effort for the purpose of developing and releasing disease resistant aroma hop cultivars into the public domain. The process began with the execution of a trust agreement (announced in Oct 2017) between the Brewers Association and USDA-ARS

“The execution of this subaward is a major milestone in the process of adding public hop breeding capacity,” said Chris Swersey, supply chain specialist for the Brewers Association. “WSU remains a historically important partner in public breeding. Locating the USDA-ARS breeding program at WSU leverages existing facilities and knowledge, and marks the return of public breeding to Washington, the leading hop producing state”.

“The ARS is excited to partner with the Brewers Association and extend public hop breeding into the Yakima Valley. The Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit has ongoing hop research based in Corvallis, OR, which is the only ARS research project devoted to hops,” said Ryan Hayes, research leader of the Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit. “This project is a great opportunity to build research capacity in the region that grows the majority of U.S. hops.”

“We’re pleased to have consolidated all of the USDA and Washington State University advanced-cycle hop germplasm at the Washington State University Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) located in the Yakima Valley. Over 75 percent of U.S. hops are grown in close proximity to IAREC,” said Doug Walsh, Ph.D., Research Director, Environmental and Agricultural Entomology at Washington State University, Prosser-IAREC. “We look forward to the hire of a USDA Hop Breeder in the near future and a successful partnership amongst the USDA, WSU, and the Brewers Association in the development of robust and well acclimated publicly sourced hop varieties with desired brewing qualities.”

The program’s research will prioritize breeding efforts in four areas: sensory requirements as determined by the Brewers Association through a collaborative and participatory brewer and industry stakeholder program; improved downy mildew resistance; improved powdery mildew resistance; and improved agronomic performance compared to existing aroma cultivars.

With the operating partner facility secured, the USDA will next move forward to hire a professional breeder.