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“Salty” Syrup from Roadside Sugar Maples in Decline

We had two objectives in the study of sugar maples which showed signs of decline and stress on a roadside where deicing salt was used in the winter. One goal was to determine if tree stress is related to the levels offsodium and chloride in their sap and in the groundwater and soil around their roots; and, if so, to develop methodology approved by the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) that would allow any laboratory to use a standard method to assess maple tree decline due to sodium and chloride effect. The second goal was to evaluate the quality of the syrup processed from sap aseptically collected from maples in decline. We are updating here the later objective of the project that is of interest to the sugar maple producers.

2011 Update of Maple Tubing and Taphole Sanitation Research at Cornell

During the 2011 maple sap season a variety of research trials were conducted at the Arnot Forest of Cornell University and in the woods of a number of cooperators both with vacuum and gravity systems. Research conducted over the last five years has shown that significant increases in sap yield can be obtained by keeping the tap hole from contamination by bacteria and yeast.

2012 Maple Tubing Research

In 2012 a variety of spout and tubing cleaning and replacement options were tested to determine the extent of sap yield changes. These tests were done at the Cornell Arnot Research Forest.

2013 Maple Tubing Research

In 2013 a variety of spout and tubing cleaning and replacement options were tested to determine the extent of sap yield changes that would result. Most of these tests were done at the Cornell Arnot Research Forest.

2014 -15 Maple Tubing Research

In 2014 and 2015 the focus of the tubing and taphole sanitation research changed dramatically. Tests conducted in 2013 showed that if the spout and drop line were adequately sanitized sap yield comparable to a new spout and drop could be obtained. With the assistance of a grant from the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension program of the USDA and in cooperation with the Proctor Maple Research Center in Vermont, a variety of spout and drop cleaning and replacement options were tested to determine the extent of sap yield changes.

2015 3/16″ Maple Tubing Cooperator Trial

During the 2015 maple sap season the Cornell Maple Program conducted a small trial, testing sap yield from 5/16″ tubing vs. 3/16″ tubing. This trial was not conducted at the Arnot Research forest but with a small maple operation cooperator. The tubing system consisted of six lateral lines, three 5/16″ and three 3/16″ alternating between the two treatments across the hillside.

A Correlation Between Sugar Concentration and Volume Yields In Sugar Maple An 18- Year Study

The sugar concentrations and the volume yields of Acer saccharum Marsh. sap from trees with single tapholes both show large variations from year to year and during sap flow seasons. Daily measurements of sugar concentration and volume yield from 29 trees for 18 years show consistent patterns. High sugar concentrations and high volume yields are characteristic of some trees; lower sugar concentrations and smaller volume yields are characteristic of other trees. A regression analysis shows a highly significant relationship between sugar concentration and volume yield in individual trees.

A History of Taps and Tree Size

The current ‘traditional’ tap hole number guidelines involve adding a tap for each 5 inch dbh above 10 inches dbh. ‘Conservative’ guidelines involve placing one tap in trees 12 inch dbh and a second tap in trees more than 18 inches dbh. The reasons behind the traditional guidelines are not stated in the North American Maple Syrup Producers Manual, but the conservative guidelines are suggested when there is concern for tree health. The purpose of this article is discover where these guidelines came from and to re-establish the reasons why they exist.