Guidelines for tapping maple trees have existed for well over 100 years. Early tapping guidelines came about when buckets (gravity collection) were the only technology available for harvesting sap. New tapping guidelines are based on years of research into maple tree growth, sap harvesting practices/technology and a recognition that tree diameter alone does not fully explain all the factors that determine if tapping intensity in a given sugarbush is sustainable. This fact sheet presents sustainable tapping guidelines.
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Because the impacts on yields of early tapping strategies, with or without subsequent rejuvenation, are likely to be affected by weather conditions which can vary widely from year to year, controlled experiments over multiple years are required in order to more fully assess whether any of these strategies result in greater yields than tapholes made during the standard spring sap flow period, or whether any increases in yield would be sufficient to compensate for the increased costs associated with implementing them. Thus, we conducted a multi-year, controlled experiment to assess the yields of several early tapping strategies, with and without subsequent rejuvenation, relative to the yields of standard spring tapholes.
This aim of this project was to determine whether early spout and dropline deployment before tapping could be used while maintaining good sanitation levels and high sap yields.
In response to injury from wounds such as tapholes, trees initiate processes to compartmentalize the affected area in order to prevent the spread of infection by disease- and decay-causing microorganisms beyond the wound, and to preserve the remaining sap conducting system (Shigo 1984). This results in the formation of a column of visibly stained wood above and below the wound, and the affected zone is rendered permanently nonconductive to water and nonproductive for sap collection. These processes, along with effects from microbial activity, are responsible for the gradual reduction in sap flow from tapholes over the course of the production season. There has been recent renewed interest in strategies which attempt to extend the standard sapflow season or increase overall yields through the “rejuvenation” of tapholes. As part of a multi-year experiment to investigate the yields and net economic outcomes of several taphole longevity strategies, we conducted an experiment to investigate the volume of NCW generated in response to two of these strategies.
How does a tree respond to the wound created by a taphole, and what does that mean for future sap production?
Managing a sugarbush for maple production.
Learn how to manage open areas returning to forest cover.
Managing trees planted for maple production.
Dr. Abby van den Berg presenting on research on early tapping and taphole longevity strategies on sap yield and non-conductive wood (NCW) formation in maple trees at the Dec 2020 Vermont Maple Conference.
A collection of videos on sugarbush management and sap production.