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By Anne Iskra

"X" Marks the Spot

After the busy month of May, our farm crews transitioned from stringing and training to planting new hops. While planting new fields happens in June, the prep-work for new plantings begins several months prior.

Here in the Willamette valley we need to occasionally install what is called “drain tile” in new fields. Drain tile is perforated tubing that is laid several feet beneath the ground to give an avenue for rainwater to drain more efficiently through the soil; optimizing our ground for growing hops.

Trencher used to lay drain tile, with Gabi as a size reference.

Once the drain tile has been installed, we work the ground to prepare it for planting. This requires large tractors and implements such as disc rippers, discs, and finally finishing with a harrow. The disc ripper goes deep into the soil to break up the hard pan that can form after years of farming while the disc and harrow break the large chunks of soil into smaller pieces. The ground is worked in the direction that compliments the way our drainage tile is installed in order to help the soil establish good drainage in its first year. We work with our good friends and neighbors at Blue Sky Farm to get the groundwork done. We partner with them not only to build on our farming relationships but also because their equipment is larger and more efficient for covering large areas.

Marking tractor

Once the ground has been worked, Seth Buck at Blue Sky Farm marks out our fields for planting. To do this he uses a tractor that is equipped with GPS and can be programmed to record spacing and locations. The GPS uses a radio signal to ensure that the field locations are precise and repeatable. Having Seth mark our fields ensures that we use our land and our crew's time to the best of our ability; both of which are limited resources. Investing in this technology at planting also leaves the door open for us to implement more technology and precision ag tools into our farming practices in the coming seasons. Once the field has been marked, our crew goes through digging holes on all the “X’s” and planting the baby hops.

Above: Baby El Dorado® hops

-Anne Iskra, Agronomist

Check out more Beyond the Box blog posts HERE and stay tuned for additional harvest updates throughout the season. Cheers!