Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Organic Hops and OSU Breeding Program Update, 9/6/10

As previously reported, Indie Hops has contracted with Goschie Farms to grow 20 acres of USDA certified organic hop. I recently visited the fields and my goodness did they look healthy, clean and orderly. See the pictures below.

We planted both Cascades and Centennials. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of the history of these historic hops. This is the biggest single tract of USDA certified 0rganic hops in Oregon hop history.

Per Gayle: the rhizomes were planted in an organic compost mix in February and the pots were then placed on a graveled area. With the cooler and wetter than normal Spring, the pots onthe warm gravel did quite well in establishing themselves. It wasn’t long before they developed pretty white/bright feeder roots. I’m glad we planted when we did. Had the rhizomes been placed in the ground in March/April, they would have sat shivering. We waited, thank goodness.

Once the grass cover crop was worked down (grass tuffs are slow in breaking down), the pots were planted in early June. That process took a little longer than planned with the ground never drying out enough to work it without causing compaction problems, which is a fancy way of saying we would’ve got our tractor stuck in the mud.

In June, we planted into the warm ground with the now composting cover crop. The plants have been given a great start. The ground will not be certified organic until 2012 (3 year transition from conventional), but he plants will be grown under organic specifications during the transitional period. From past experience, this will give the plants a great start with this extended establishment period.

Happy Labor Day! Just another day for us in the hop world as we continue our wonderful hop harvest… Gayle

In other news, while down at GF, I spied signs of Dr. Shaun Townsends handiwork. As you know, Indie Hops has financed an aroma hop breeding program at OSU. The program has been designed to foster collaboration between academic breeders, local hop farmers and brewers. Below are a few pictures of hop vines festooned with brown bags, the insides of which contain freshly pollinated female cones.

As Shaun reports, the bags above are part of the crosses that he made in July of 2010.

For each sidearm, he clipped the major leaves off, secured a bag over that sidearm, and introduce pollen from the desired male parent to complete the cross. The plants and bags will stay in place until about October 1, 2010. At that time, Shaun will take the plants down and haul the crosses back to OSU for threshing, seed-cleaning, and pre-treatment for planting.

In addition to Goschie Farms in Silverton, Dr. Townsend is also pollinating female cones at Coleman Farms, our other farm partner (the Alluvial Farm near Independence, Oregon). The progeny from the various crosses should produce a wide range of genetic types for selection. One of the main criteria in selecting pollen and seeds for crossing, in addition to a muscular oil profile, has been downy mildew resistance.

So far, so good.
Roger Worthington

PS That well dressed man in the hopfields reaching for a cone on the "bag vine" is our good friend and gentleman brewer, Dan Kopman of Shlafly from St. Louis.

V for Victory! When the rain quenches and the soil nourishes and the sun shines, the hops win. When the hops win, we all win! Provided of course they’re handled just right…

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