As the maple industry has grown, so too has the use of plastic sap tubing. Solutions are needed to help producers dispose of tubing when it is past its useful life, in ways that ensure it is not merely ending up in landfills.
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Although several previous studies have examined syrup darkening in different retail containers, packers and producers sometimes question the effectiveness of an oxygen-barrier in reducing the rate of color change. Two studies were performed by the University of Vermont (UVM) Proctor Maple Research Center (PMRC) in 2018 and 2019 to compare the rate of color (LT) change in maple syrup in uncoated and XL-coated retail plastic containers.
The combination of potential crop losses from foam-related incidents, reductions in crop value due to off-flavors, and ultimately the many adverse effects of such a large proportion of organic syrup with off-flavors potentially being sold to consumers, underscore the need to identify or develop a certified organic defoamer for maple production that is both more effective at controlling foam than the culinary oils that are currently used, and which results in no off-flavors when used in the quantities necessary to adequately control foam. Thus, the overall objective of this project was to identify a certified organic defoamer that met these criteria.
We are seeing new challenges for our maples and their offspring. Invasive species, climate change, poor forest management, and other factors are all serious threats to the productivity of harvesting maple sugar in the decades to come. However, there are things we can do to protect the tradition of maple sugaring in our regions. Silviculture is our primary tool.
Looking around your woods youÕll see that there are far more trees on the landscape than you have time to measure. The science of forestry has taught us that similar stands (ones that have the same species composition, size classes, productivity, and management history) do not need to undergo a 100% census to get an accurate picture of what is there. Foresters use sampling methods that inventory stands to get an accurate representation of what is in them and the quality of the resource.
It is well recognized that microbial contamination of tubing systems can result in a substantial loss in sap yield if untreated. Over a decade of research and maple industry experience has produced a range of possible strategies to address sanitation-related issues in 5/16Ó tubing systems (Perkins et. al. 2019). Although rapidly adopted by many maple producers, due to the relatively short time period in which it has been in widespread use, there is far less understanding of sanitation in 3/16Ó tubing systems (Wilmot 2018). To address this knowledge deficit, we conducted a multi-year study at the UVM Proctor Maple Research Center to examine sanitation-related losses in 3/16Ó tubing systems to determine which approach(es) might best mitigate sap losses due to sanitation.
How may climate change impact the maple syrup industry? Our team of interdisciplinary researchers, ACERnet (Acer Climate and Socio-Ecological Research Network), has been working to understand the complex answers to this question for the past several years. In particular, we are interested in examining how climate impacts the timing of the maple tapping season as well as both the quality and quantity of sap collected during the tapping season.
Technological advances by maple equipment manufacturers, continued outreach and education by local, state, federal, and provincial maple organizations, and widespread adoption of new management practices by producers have revolutionized the maple industry over the last 20 years. The design and layout of sap collection systems and advances in vacuum pumps and releasers has resulted in higher per tap sap yields well beyond the old standards. Increased per tap volume has been matched with modern high brix reverse osmosis systems and efficiency gains in evaporators, pushing the economic potential of making maple syrup to new heights. Value-added products, niche marketing and branding, and social media and online platforms, coupled with health conscious and savvy consumers,have altered the retail sales landscape and linked rural maple producers to consumers around the world.
More then a decade ago there was a renewed realization that microbial contamination of maple sap collection systems was having a significant detrimental impact on sap yields. Several research studies to investigate ways to improve sap yields from tubing systems were undertaken at both the University of Vermont Proctor Maple Research Center (Underhill, VT) and at the Cornell University Arnot Forest (Van Etten, NY) starting at about the same time and proceeded both as independent and joint projects from 2009-2018. The results of many of these studies have been reported in the past in numerous individual publications and presentations. This article seeks to combine and present this extensive body of work into a single, comprehensive, but concise summary of our results.
During the 2019 maple season the Cornell Maple Program conducted replicated trials on 5/16Ó and 3/16Ó tubing looking at a variety of tubing options for taphole sanitation and tapping. This report will focus on the 5/16Ó results.