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Allyson Wentworth

Goodbye Hops, Hello Grapes

The last few weeks have been spent preparing for harvest. Mite counts have increased in various fields and scouting densities have slowly decreased in the fields that haven’t had as much activity. Brewers and researchers have been busy visiting the farm in preparation for the upcoming months. I had the chance to attend a meeting with Yakima Chief Hops (formerly Yakima Chief HopUnion) with salesmen and women who work for YCH. At this meeting, Jason Perrault, the CEO of Perrault Farms, Inc. and Yakima Chief Ranches (formerly known as Select Botanicals Group), gave a speech regarding the various new experimental varieties YCR has been developing and how they will affect growers and brewers. Citra® has since been listed as the number one hop variety used in beer, surpassing Cascade which has been the leader for many years.

Following Jason’s speech, Amy Matthews, the Brand Manager at YCR, discussed patents and registered trademarks. I thought the information she provided was very interesting. With hops, a variety has a “code” which the hop is patented under. This code describes the characteristics which make that specific hop unique, allowing a company to patent it. However, separate from the code is the brand name which receives the registered trademark. For example “Ekuanot®” is the brand name of this hop and “HBC 366” is the patent name. Therefore, she wants the salesmen and women at YCR to refer to hops only by their brand name since this is what is trademarked and will be used when marketing the product.

Finally, Jeff Perrault gave a presentation on pre-season through post-harvest operations which included information on planting new fields, training bines, IPM, pesticide application, harvest operations and preparation for the winter.

The last nit of our work at the farm has included the completion of sap analysis, scouting of fields, and roguing. We have been going back through fields that we have rogued and have been using biodegradable survey spray paint to mark the male hills. This will make it easier for our supervisor to remove male hills after harvest. Below is an image of hops that were pollinated by a neighboring male plant. These hops caught my eye because of their large size due to containing seed.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Moxee Hop Festival where I saw this hop picker that was used in the fields back in the 1940’s. A hop picker is used to separate the leaves and woody material from the cones. It is incredible to see the technology that was used back then and compare it to what is being used today!

I complete this post with the last sunrise I will be seeing at the farm. I’m excited to announce that for the last two weeks of my internship, I will be working at Two Mountain Winery in Zillah, WA developing an IPM plan that they can continue to use in their vineyards in future years!

From Hops to Blueberries

The past few weeks have flown by! The work has been steady and more tasks have been added to our plates.

The mite levels have slowly increased over the last few weeks with rising temperatures above 100 degrees. The mites move upward to reach the sunlight and are typically found congregating on the leaves that are within the top two feet of the bine. As soon as more than thirty mites or mite eggs are spotted in a field on a single leaf, the sprayers are notified and the field is sprayed within a few hours of our discovery.

Powdery mildew levels have also been increasing, particularly in the baby fields that are more susceptible to heat stress.

weevil

Onto the fun stuff! On Friday the 13th, we worked a half shift during the day, then came back to the farm at 10:00 PM to go weevil hunting until 3:00 AM! Weevils are a nocturnal pest that feed on the hop leaves. The only known control method for weevils is nematodes, and this research has only been conducted in greenhouses. Therefore, it is unknown whether nematodes would be a useful predator to distribute throughout the fields. Our goal was to scout 9 point in each field to determine which field has high weevil counts. Those with the highest counts would be considered for nematode distribution. My boss,  co-worker, and I split each field into thirds and chose a lane to take our counts from. We stopped at three points in our row, laid out a tarp, and beat the back of a bine with a stick to see how many weevils fell out. We recorded the number of weevils that fell onto the tarp. There were only a few fields that had relatively high counts and control methods have yet to be determined.

 

We have now begun taking sap analysis samples on leaves from the organic blueberry fields. This past week was my first time being over there and it was quite an experience! I was able to catch the blueberry harvester in action while collecting leaves. We will be collecting leaf samples from the blueberries for the next few weeks so I look forward to getting back over there, especially before everything is harvested!

 

blueberry harvester

                   

The hops have also been slowly getting bigger! These are from the same Palisade field that I showcased in the previous blog post. We are starting to smell the aroma characteristics of each hop variety.

Finally, here is a sunrise photo I was able to capture just before starting my fields last Monday. Enjoy!

Males, Mites, and Aphids

The workload for these last two weeks has steadily increased. The pests have gradually been increasing in the fields and I have begun to see more aphids and a few two-spotted spider mites. However, since the temperature hasn’t been as high as it usually is by this time of year, there are still not too many problems with pests. We are expecting temperatures to increase in July and two-spotted spider mites to become more of an issue then.

Look Closely to See a Two-Spotted Spider Mite!

During week three, I found an abundance of aphids in one section of a field. Ultor, an aphicide, was sprayed on just those twelve rows which terminated the aphid population.

Aphids

The newest addition to our daily schedule is roguing. Roguing is scouting for male plants. The fields we are roguing had high seed percentages per barrel this past fall. Therefore, it is our job to find them, mark them, and cut them down. Later in the season, other workers will come in and remove the hills that we’ve marked to ensure that the males do not grow back next year. It is usually very obvious to spot the male plants because they have visibly large pollen sacs attached to the bines, as pictured below. However, if the plant hasn’t fully expressed itself yet, it can be very difficult to spot male plants which means very thorough checks must be made to ensure none are missed. My colleague and I scout every other row of a field to check for males. If a field is abundant in males, it can take us around six hours to complete a ninety row field. Therefore, we break up the time spent scouting over a few days. There are some bines that can also be hermaphroditic, due to an environmental stress that the bine may be under. We have to severe these bines as well to ensure that pollination does not occur.

Male Bines 

Hermaphroditic Bine

Another task which I have been assigned with is taking soil measurement readings in two fields. My supervisor manages the irrigation in these fields. The water conductivity of the soil is highly variable in these two fields, which means that soil moisture must be closely tracked to ensure that the bines aren’t receiving too much water to cause leaching, and so that they don’t dry out. My job is to take three readings in each of the eight zones so that I can develop a graph that shows the soil moisture for each zone in the field. My supervisor then makes decisions on the length of time the irrigation will run and how many times a day these fields will be irrigated.

To finalize this post, there are hops growing now! Below you can see baby cones developing on Simcoe and larger cones that have started growing on Palisade. If you can’t tell by the picture below, I am absolutely loving working with the hops!

Baby Simcoe cones

Palisade Cones

Yakima, WA: Where There’s More Hops Than People

Hello everyone, my name is Allyson Wentworth and I am a junior studying agricultural sciences and viticulture and enology at Cornell University. My interest in agriculture stemmed from the ten years I spent in 4-H training dogs. I was exposed to the agricultural industry and decided that it was the field I belonged in. After deciding that agriculture was the path for me, and arriving at Cornell, I quickly learned that I wanted to focus on integrated pest management (IPM). During September of 2017, I managed a post-doc student’s research on phylloxera, a common grapevine pest that devastates vineyards by feeding on the rootstock. The goal of this research is to discover what signaling causes the phylloxera to feed on some varieties of rootstock, and not others, and whether there is a plant out there with similar signals that can detract the phylloxera from the rootstock. After working with this research for a month, I decided that I wanted my summer internship to focus on IPM.

On May 25th, I arrived in Toppenish, Washington where I began work at Perrault Farms, Inc. located on the Yakima Reservation, one of the largest hop growing regions in the world. Perrault Farms owns and farms over 1500 acres of commercial and organic hops and 30 acres of organic blueberries. Perrault Farms works alongside Select Botanicals Group, Yakima-Chief HopUnion, and Hop Breeding Company to develop new hop varieties and further their sustainability. I am here working as an IPM scout, searching the fields for pests and disease.

I will be spending the summer scouting Citra and Mosaic hop fields, along with a few experimental varieties and a small acreage of Ekuanot and Palisade. All of these varieties were developed by either Select Botanicals Group (SBG) or the Hop Breeding Company (HBC). One of the more well-known varieties that was discovered by Perrault Farms was Simcoe. Fun Fact: Simcoe was one of the hops chosen to brew the Windsor Knot, which was the beer served at Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in May.

Citra Fields Week 1

My day begins by arriving to the farm at 5:00 AM, just before the sunrises. There is a lot of work that needs to get done so the earlier we arrive, the earlier we finish scouting our assigned fields. This is also nice because the mornings here are cold, so we don’t have to work outside during the heat of the day.

5:00 AM Sunrises

We load up our ATV’s with what we will need for scouting and head out. Each weekday is assigned about 4 to 6 different fields that need to be completed with different scouting density levels. Scouting density levels are determined by the degree of pest or disease thought to be present in a field. A level 1 density is scouting one geographical point, which is described as a pole-to-pole section of 15 hops, every 15 rows. Level 2 is 2 points every 10 rows and level 3 is 2 points every 5 rows.

Protection from the Sun and Dust

The first week we began scouting for powdery mildew and downey mildew. Powdery mildew appears near the hill (base) of the bine and will spread upwards. Bines are susceptible when temperatures are high and moisture is present in the hill. It appears as a fuzzy, white, misshapen blotch on the leaves and if not treated properly, can devastate the entire crop. Downey mildew appears in moist conditions. Therefore, it is typically seen after a heavy rainfall. It’s characteristic traits are short, stunted vines growing near or around the hill, with downturned yellow-colored leaves and black spores on the underside of the leaves. A bine infected with downey mildew will only grow to about half it’s typical height and therefore yields will be significantly lower.

Downey Mildew

My project for the season is to measure nutrient levels within the vegetative growth of the bine and determine what nutrients the hops are deficient or overly-sufficient in and how to resolve the issue. Old and new leaf samples of various fields are collected to be tested. The reason for collecting both old and new leaf samples is to see if the nutrients from the old samples have been are mobile, and therefore present in the new leaves. The leaves are placed in a hydraulic press which squeezes sap out and into a small sample cup. I will then take these samples and run sap analysis which involves the use of six different sensors. These sensors measure the levels of nitrate, potassium, calcium, sodium, pH, and water conductivity. Thus far, there have not been any determinations made on what nutrients need to be applied to fields but I am hoping to help make these decisions starting next week!

Meters Used to Measure Nutrients         

Hydraulic Press

                           

Sap Samples

We have also begun scouting for pests and beneficials, however, since it is early in the season, and the weather has been rather mild, there hasn’t been too many sightings of either. Next week should begin to pick up with pest pressures and I will be reporting back with more information and pictures on that!

 

Hop Fields and Mount Adams

 

 

 

 

 

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