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Update on the Maple Tubing Sanitation Research in Ontario

In the spring of 1998, a research project was initiated to develop alternative methods for maple produces using plastic tubing systems. Although the results are only preliminary, the development of alternative sanitation methods that may reduce reliance on chlorine is looking very promising.

Cost of Maple Sap Production for Various Size Tubing Operations

Reports sap production costs for small (500 to 1,000 taps), medium (1,000 to 5,000), and large (5,000 to 15,000) maple syrup operations that use plastic tubing with vacuum pumping. The average annual operating cost per tap ranged from $4.64 for a 500-tap sugarbush operation to $1.84 for a sugarbush with 10,000 taps. The weighted average was $2.87 per tap or $11.48 per gallon (assumes four taps required to produce a gallon of syrup). The average annual investment cost for a plastic tubing system ranged from $7.90 for a 500-tap operation to $6.03 for a 10,000-tap system. The average labor time per tap was 4.74 minutes in 1998 compared to 9.60 minutes in 1975. The break-even (zero profit) size for a sugarbush operation was 900, 1,500, and 3,800 taps for a 3.0, 2.5, and 2.0o Brix sap, respectively.

Bacterial Adhesion to Plastic Tubing Walls

The advent of plastic tubing systems to collect sap has eliminated several problems associated with the traditional bucket system. However, plastic tubing systems also present some problems of their own. Sap quality problems arise if the lines sag and the sap lingers within the tubings or the large conduits. In addition, the warming effect of the sun increases the tem perature within the tubing to optimum levels for microbial growth and sap flow may decrease because of “organic buildup” on the internal tubing walls. This buildup is a result of the adhesion of microorganisms to the tubing walls.

Plastic Tubing and Maple Syrup Quality

Maple syrup made from sap collected using improperly or carelessly installed plastic pipelines varied more in color from day to day, and was more often darker in color, than sap collected from either the property installed pipeline or clean, frequently emptied galvanized buckets. Use of both properly installed tubing and buckets, following recommended procedures, produced light colored syrup of equal quality throughout the entire maple syrup season.