Our objective in this 2020 study was to revisit walnut tree sap flow and to determine whether vacuum applied to sap collection lines would substantially increase the production of walnut sap. Along the way, we made some somewhat startling and troublesome observations and formulated a next generation of questions that need to be answered to allow a viable walnut syrup industry to develop.
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Tapping walnut trees for sap collection and syrup production provides a syrup producer the opportunity to tap into the new, growing, and potentially lucrative specialty tree syrup market. The bulk price for walnut syrup in West Virginia this past season ranged from $150-$250/gallon, with retail sale prices topping $500/gallon (Tonoloway Farm, 2020). To get there, potential walnut syrup producers need to know how and when to tap their trees to maximize sap production. During the 2020 sap flow season, Future Generations University, with a grant from the NE SARE program, conducted studies looking at the application of vacuum, spout design, tapping procedures, and the timing of sap flow in walnut trees. This paper presents part of the findings of that work.
A 107 tap study area was established at John DalenÕs farm in Franklin WV. At this site we carried out a series of trials to learn about walnut sap flow, and to address sap and syrup production issues as they arose. We also collaborated with walnut sap producers in Palestine and Leon WV, and with Virginia TechÕs Catawba Sustainability Center in Blacksburg VA. The analysis section of this report is based on the work done at the Dalen farm study area.
The first part of this book is a set of guidelines that follow the West Virginia Department of Agriculture’s Sugaring Operations Inspection Checklist. The checklist is what is on the clipboard of the state compliance officer should you ever get or need a WVDA review certificate. The second part of this book presents a Decision Tree and Regulatory Matrix that you can follow to help you comply with state and federal regulation that apply to your production and sale of maple syrup.