March 17, 2008
Contact: Brian F. Chabot, Cornell University, 607-254-4234
Michael Farrell, Uihlein Maple Research Station, 518-523-9337

Maple Weekend 2008 March 29-30; Will It Be in Late January in 2080?
NNY Maple Producers Testing Early Tapping Opportunity

Maple Weekend in 2008 is March 29-30 as current weather patterns are providing for good sap flow in the maple trees of Northern New York. However, over the next century, if climate change models are correct, by the year 2080 the annual maple production showcase at regional sugarhouses in Northern New York could be January 29-30. The climate patterns producing warmer winter weather and increased thawing events are causing some NNY maple producers to test the tapping process earlier in the winter.

Six maple producers have begun working with Brian F. Chabot of Cornell University and Uihlein Maple Research Station Director Michael Farrell to evaluate the effects of climate change on the industry that adds roughly $1.7 million to Northern New York�s economy each year.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program Maple Advisory Committee has given their highest priority to understanding the opportunities and consequences of tapping sugar maples for their sap earlier in the late winter-early spring.

�Maple producers have a legitimate concern about how they should be adapting to climate warming trends. Long-term sap collection records on the trees at the Uihlein Forest show that both the start and end of the sap season has moved about a week earlier in the past 30 years with an overall loss of three to four days of production,� Farrell says.

Chabot, director of the Cornell University Maple Program, says, �Climate projection models suggest that the sap season with the freeze-thaw conditions needed to make the sap run will continue to advance. Winter as we now know it may be replaced by spring beginning in early January.�

Chabot�s research indicates that the number of sap flow days in winter/early spring could increase in some areas in Northern New York while the sap flow days in most of the state will decrease.

Maple producers depend on enough freeze-thaw days in the 6-10 weeks after tapping their trees to collect sufficient sap to boil into syrup and process into value-added products. It generally takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Producers are increasingly processing their syrup into value-added confections such as maple candies, maple cream, granulated sugar, sauces and other products.

�The decision on when to tap is critical,� says Farrell. �If one taps too early, the tapholes may dry up prematurely causing producers to miss late season runs. However, delaying tapping until the traditional time in late February/early March could result in producers missing the early season runs.�

Chabot adds, �The maple producers who are beginning this new Northern New York Agricultural Development Program project with us in 2008 will help us determine the advantages and disadvantages of tapping earlier and of staggering tapping as a risk management strategy. We are eager to see how the diverse climate influences in Northern New York � from the Great Lakes effect and the Adirondack Mountains �will impact project results.�

The producers participating in the project are:
Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H Program of St. Lawrence County, Canton, NY
Champlain Valley Education Services, Plattsburg, NY
Heaven Hill Farm/Northwood School, Lake Placid, NY
- Jeff-Lewis BOCES Conservation Program, Glenfield, NY
Steven Rider, Lowville, NY
Rolland Thomas, Alder Brook Maple Products, Dickinson, NY.

The producers have agreed to tap 36 trees at several intervals and record sap flow, volume, and sugar concentration. The data will be tallied and compared to determine the optimum tapping time. Previous research in Vermont suggests that January-tapped trees will perform as well or better than March-tapped trees, but, Farrell says, �Time will tell how these early taps perform at the six Northern New York sites under our diverse climates across the region.�

Regional farmers representing all sectors of conventional and organic agriculture from dairy, livestock and crops to maple, fruits, and vegetables direct the applied on-farm research and educational outreach efforts of the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program. For more information on previous maple research conducted with funding from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, go online to www.nnyagdev.org.

Snapshot of the Northern New York Maple Industry
From Adjusted Table 118. Maple: Summary by County 2000, New York Agricultural Statistics

Snapshot of the Northern New York Maple Industry

From Adjusted Table 118. Maple: Summary by County 2000, New York Agricultural Statistics

County     # of Producers       # of gallons syrup       Ave $/gal       Ave Start/End of Season

Clinton                 54                     11,684                    $25.55            March 5 to March 30

Essex                    30                       4,681                   $27.35            March 1 to April 2

Franklin               27                         3,555                   $24.80            March 5 to April 5

Jefferson              25                         2,003                   $24.00            March 1 to March 24

Lewis                  145                     37,031                   $22.55            February 29 to March 29

St. Lawrence      136                      15,994                   $23.35            March 1 to March 26

Total or Range 417                      74,948    $22.55 to $27.35            Feb. 29 to April 5, 2000