The Pacific NW hop region experienced a challenging growing season with crop 2015 due to record-setting high temperatures and low water supplies, particularly in the Yakima Valley. While water reservoirs were full by end of the winter, snowpack levels were near all-time lows. This led to limited water supplies during the growing season in the Yakima Valley where 73% of the US hop acreage is grown. While Oregon and Idaho did not have issues with water supply, many of the irrigation districts in the Yakima Valley prorated water deliveries by mid-summer and throughout the remainder of the growing season.
Crop yields for the PNW were about average overall despite the issues with warm temperatures and water supply. Yields from “baby” yards (new plantings) and early maturing varieties such as Cluster, Willamette, Golding, and Centennial were significantly below average, with some yards down by 30% or more. This led to short deliveries and tight supplies for these varieties. However, mid-late maturing varieties such as Cascade, Chinook, Crystal, CTZ, Citra®, and Equinox® turned in average yields, while Mosaic®, Nugget, and some CTZ actually yielded quite strongly despite the weather and water issues. Alpha levels were variable across most all varieties, with the primary high alpha variety CTZ being down about 1 – 1.5 points from long term averages.
The pre-harvest USDA grower production survey placed the 2015 crop estimate at 80 million lbs, a 13% increase over the 71 million lbs produced last season. While the post-harvest survey is not yet available, it appears the USDA’s estimate will not be far off the mark with the actual crop perhaps being slightly down from the estimate. The production increase comes mainly as result of a 16% acreage increase, with approx. 44,000 acres grown for crop 2015 compared to about 38,000 acres in 2014. All of the new acreage comes from aroma/flavor varieties to supply the craft market, with 33% of the crop 2015 acreage consisting of proprietary varieties such as Citra®, Mosaic®, Equinox® and others. Looking ahead, while acreage and harvest infrastructure remains very tight, early projections indicate another 10% acreage expansion for crop 2016 is possible, again consisting mainly of craft-oriented varieties.