Cover Crops for Hop Production in Semi-arid Yakima Valley, Washington

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2015: $15,144.00
Projected End Date: 11/09/2018
Grant Recipient: Bleyhl Co-op
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Sarah Del Moro
Inland Desert Nursery

Annual Reports

Information Products

Cover Crops for Hop Production in Semi Arid Climates (Conference/Presentation Material)


  • Agronomic: hops


  • Crop Production: alley cropping, cover crops



    The goal of this research was to determine an economical cover crop species that provides the greatest ground cover in hop yard interrows while reducing weed ground cover. We tested the following plant species: barley, yellow-blossom alfalfa, wheatgrass and fescue along with a disced control in 2015, and weed cover control in 2016 and 2017. Ground cover from crops and weeds was measured visually every week or every other week throughout the 2015, 2016 and 2017 growing seasons. Barley provided an average season long ground cover of ~84% in 2015 and ~70% in 2016. Perennial grasses achieved significant ground cover after establishment, with wheatgrass and fescue contributing ~65% and ~72% average season-long ground cover in 2017, respectively. The alfalfa did not adequately establish until the end of 2016. Ground cover from weeds was significantly reduced in all cover crop treatments compared to the average season-long ground cover from control plots of 82- to 84%. Soil tests also reported that organic matter and some soil minerals were significantly increased from cover cropped plots. From this study we conclude that perennial grasses, such as hard fescue or tall fescue, are the most economically viable cover crop option for hop yards that will remain planted for at least 5 years. Barley and other cereal grain crops are an economically viable option for particularly dusty or mite-infested hop yards that will be removed within 5 years.

    Project objectives:

    The primary goal of this three-year study was to determine cover crop species that provided the greatest interrow vegetative ground cover for hop producers in the Yakima Valley. Effective ground cover conserves topsoil and reduces dust.


    Secondary goals:

    1. Determine cover crop species that provided the greatest reduction in weed cover
    2. Assess soil quality changes among cover crop species
    3. Perform an economic cost-benefit analysis of various interrow management schemes, including cover cropping
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.