Washington State University is leading an effort to improve hops and help hop growers, with an eye toward boosting the craft beer industry. The effort comes thanks to a $5 million USDA grant with a goal of breeding new hop varieties that are naturally resistant to key viruses. WSU Entomologist Doug Walsh said the result could bring an expansion of hops from the Northwest into the European market for craft beer.

"[Roughly] 40% of our crop already goes to the European Union.  We're hoping to export a lot more crops to the European Union if craft beer craving, kind of, kicks in in the European Union."

Part of the pathway into bosting hop exports to Europe will be meeting E.U. requirements, which call for a reduction in the use of pesticides. Walsh said another goal of the project is to breed hops that can be grown under a wide range of geographic conditions across the U.S.

"While 99% of the hops are produced here in the Pacific Northwest, all these little craft breweries around the country would like to get locally sourced hops in from their specific area.”

Walsh also contends that Northwest hops growers have made the craft beer boom in the U.S. possible, and they want to do the same in other countries. Researchers from Oregon State University and the University of Idaho are joining Walsh and his team at WSU in the effort to make better hops.

If you have a story idea for the PNW Ag Network, call (509) 547-1618, or e-mail gvaagen@cherrycreekmedia.com