New method may revolutionize maple syrup industry U Vermont
Remaking Maple: New method may revolutionize maple syrup industry
By Joshua E. Brown

Tim Perkins and Abby van den Berg photo

Last year, the value of Vermont maple syrup was more than $26 million. UVM professors Abby van den Berg and Tim Perkins have revealed an invention that can yield vastly more syrup per acre than what producers currently get from the forest. It starts by cutting the top off a maple sapling. (Photo: Sally McCay)

maple sapling image

A new sap collecting technique invented at the University of Vermont. It could work for maple–or walnut, birch, or even palm trees. (Photo: Sally McCay)

Four years ago, Tim Perkins and Abby van den Berg cut the top off a maple tree. As researchers at the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center, they wanted to learn more about sap flow.

Instead, they discovered an entirely new way to make maple syrup. “It’s revolutionary in some ways,” says Perkins.

Their new technique uses tightly spaced plantations of chest-high sugar-maple saplings. These could be single stems with a portion — or all — of the crown removed. Or they could be multiple-stemmed maples, where one stem per tree can be cut each year. Either way, the cut stem is covered with a sealed plastic bag. Under the bag, the sap flows out of the stump under vacuum pressure and into a tube. Voilà, huge quantities of sap.

In short, these plantations can allow maple syrup production in a farm field.

Typically, a traditional sugarbush produces about 40 gallons of maple syrup per acre of forest by tapping, perhaps, 80 mature trees. With this new method, the UVM researchers estimate that producers could get more than 400 gallons of syrup per acre drawing from about 6,000 saplings.

The new technique has the potential to enhance business for existing syrup producers, the researchers think, and defend Vermont’s maple industry from threats that range from climate change to spiking land costs to Asian long-horned beetles.

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