An examination of why and how maple sugarmakers can make their operations carbon-neutral.
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Over two-thirds of consumers say that living a more sustainable lifestyle is important to them. Eco-friendly and Fair Trade claims are attractive to consumers, but the marketplace is still trying to clarify what lies behind these claims and if shoppers really follow through with their interests in the form of purchases. Consumer sentiment research looked at retail sales from 2017-2020 and showed that consumer spending on products with environmental, social and governance (ESG) claims grew at a faster rate than products without such claims (Am et al., 2023).
Without a freeze, the flow of sap will continue to slow and eventually stop because there is no longer a difference between the pressure inside and outside of the tree. However, producers often observe an uptick in sap flow during the daytime over a few days. Why does this occur? Where did the extra sap come from? Typically, these short bursts of increased sap flow happen when the temperature warms over the next few days. The warm temperature causes gas bubbles in the wood fibers to expand and squeeze more water from the wood tissues, where it flows into the vessels and out through the taphole. This might occur for a couple of days, and eventually turn into slow weeping flows before ceasing entirely.
Judged maple syrup contests originated as a friendly competition amongst producers in the early part of the 20th century. More recently, these competitions have evolved into a valuable opportunity for producers to improve their practice and evaluate their production methods. The grading system employed in the judging process facilitates communication about the uniqueness of pure maple syrup. The world standard definitions, uniform grading system, and related guidelines have been developed to promote uniformity throughout the maple industry. In competition, the same standards apply, regardless of where the contest is being held. As maple judging has evolved, so have the guidelines. Every region has contributed to the refinement of these criteria, as the process of judging has become more sophisticated and widespread. Producers throughout the US and Eastern Canada have begun to embrace maple judging as they understand the value of knowing how to make syrup to a high standard. Consumers benefit from the emphasis on taste, and off-flavored syrup is kept out of the market.
Vacuum and gravity “pull” sap down lateral lines. Friction “uses up” energy. The energy that is lost in this case is vacuum (gravity is constant). Reducing friction in the tubing system preserves energy and preserves vacuum further up the line. If making tubing larger or smoother due to cost or implementation issues, the next best way to reduce friction in tubing is to reduce turbulence, especially at fittings. This can be readily achieved through two simple modifications. The first method is to incorporate a bevel into the entrance and exit of all fittings. The second modification is to incorporate an arc where sap streams meet.
While there are both good and bad impacts on maple syrup producers due to climate change, overall, the effects will be negative. On the plus side, longer summers mean longer growing seasons for maple trees. However, regionally this longer growing season will increasingly be accompanied by periods of extended drought – particularly in more southern latitudes. This in turn may hinder root growth and performance. As maple syrup producers we are aware that anything which negatively effects maple tree roots is a concern because the roots are the origin for sap movement in the spring.
Comprehensive video on how to make the most of your sugaring season, covering tapping, tubing, and efficient boiling.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many maple producers were forced to cancel open house events during the 2020 sugaring season for the safety of the producers and their customers. This caused a major loss in sales for many maple producers throughout the maple producing region. While COVID-19 is likely to still be a concern for the 2021 sugaring season, we now have a better understanding of the virus and protective measures to keep everyone safe while staying open for business. Those measures and best practices are detailed in this guidance.
Maple farmers experienced a difficult transition when the COVID-19 outbreak in North America resulted in the shutting down of sugarhouses to the public, particularly during some of the most crucial weekends for in-person maple sales. Sugarmakers had to quickly pivot in order to make up for lost sales in the sugarhouse as well as from wholesale restaurant and school accounts. This shift brought about some creative thinking and innovative solutions to reach customers and promote maple products. Some successful marketing, sales and agritourism strategies have not only helped producers recover lost sales, but have permanently enhanced their future sales approach and marketing plans.
Sap flow and stem pressure in sugar maples during winter dormancy depend on the expansion and contraction of gas bubbles. These gas bubbles are primarily located in the libriform fibers of wood tissues, not in the xylem vessels. Though there are gas bubbles (embolisms) in the xylem vessels, these bubbles are not the dominant drivers of stem pressurization.