Skip to main content

U of I researchers open new hopyard in Parma for disease, pest research

By John O’Connell

University of Idaho

A new experimental hopyard at the University of Idaho’s Parma Research and Extension Center will facilitate trials evaluating pest and disease threats facing the state’s hop farmers.

The new short-trellis hopyard, comprising 220 plots of Chinook and Cascade variety of hops throughout 1.7 acres, was planted in April and will be highlighted June 21 during a field day and tour of the Parma facility.

It will supplement the full-trellis hopyard, where researchers at Parma conduct studies evaluating chemical efficacy, chemical residue and yield effects.

The U.S. ranks No. 1 in global hops production, raising 40% of the world’s hops, mostly in the Pacific Northwest. Idaho is the No. 2 hops-producing state, responsible for 16% of U.S. hops production.

James Woodhall, an Extension specialist and plant pathologist based in Parma, has spearheaded the project. Parma research technician Silas Shumate oversaw the design and construction, with input from area hop farmer Diane Gooding.

“Hop growers need information about new products and existing products and how well they work. This will enable us to get that information very cost effectively,” Woodhall said. “It’s more than doubled our capacity for hop field research.”

Because the new hopyard is not intended for experiments evaluating yield, researchers were able to plant shorter trellises requiring fewer farming inputs to generate the same data on disease and pest pressure.

Shorter trellises are also easier to spray, enabling researchers to plant rows with tighter spacing.

“The main benefit is you can put in a yard for a third to a fourth of the cost per acre this way and you still get viable data,” Shumate said. “There’s not a lot of hops research going on within our Treasure Valley for the hops in the Treasure Valley. We can get a lot more data out to our hop growers in the coming years.”

The first research project is already underway at the facility, evaluating biological products applied when hops are planted.

The yard is laid out into two main blocks, surrounded by “spreader rows” of a hop variety that’s extremely susceptible to diseases and pests.

The intent is to provide consistent and even pest and disease pressure throughout the plots. Woodhall and his staff are developing special equipment for spraying the short-trellis hopyard that should eliminate the potential for chemical drift to affect any nearby plots.

In addition to expertise, Gooding Farms, located in Parma, donated hop rhizomes, posts and other materials toward the project. Gooding Farms, established in 1895, is now run by Diane Gooding and her sisters, boasting 750 acres and 12 hop varieties.  

Gooding serves as the vice president of the Hop Research Council, which is a national nonprofit organization that funds and directs hop research.

She believes obtaining site-specific research data is extremely important for Idaho’s hop farmers, noting the Treasure Valley has unique strains of powdery mildew affecting hops, for example.

“It’s a great opportunity to equal the playing field with what some of the folks in Washington have at their fingertips already,” Gooding said of the new hopyard. “Being the second largest producer of hops, it makes a lot of sense.”

Idaho’s hop-growing area is relatively small, encompassing Wilder, Parma, Notus, Greenleaf and Bonners Ferry. Local hops farmers and the Idaho Hop Growers Commission have been ardent supporters of the full-trellis hopyard in Parma.