Posts

Sap Yields: Why CODIT and Non-Conductive Wood Matter

CODIT stands for Compartmentalization of Decay in Trees, and sugar maples are darn good at CODIT!  Mark Isselhardt, during the 2021 virtual Ohio Society of American Foresters spring meeting, gave an excellent microscopic and physiological explanation of how maple trees wall off and seal up old tapholes.

Why does understanding compartmentalization matter to a maple producer?  Compartmentalization creates the all-important non-conductive wood that sugarmakers try to avoid with each year’s new taphole.  And just in case you were wondering – how much does it matter?  Through work conducted at University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center, Mark Isselhardt document sap yield declines of 70-75% when a taphole intersects non-conductive wood.

From Tree to Table Maple Webinar

Please enjoy this 1-hour presentation led by Kathy Smith, Les Ober, and Gabe Karns.  This opportunity was made available through the Woodland Stewards Friday in the Woods webinar series.  Nearly 150 attendees listened to a wide coverage of beginner maple topics followed by a full hour of Q & A that ranged from more technical aspects of boiling and filtering and processing syrup to more inquisitive investigations of why the freeze-thaw cycle is necessary for making sap flow and if tapped wood has any market potential as lumber.

Time Lapse ACER Research

Watch this time lapse video of maple research taking place at the Ohio State Sugarbush located on the OSU Mansfield Campus.

Across 13 racks with 5, 6, or 7 canisters each, the OSU maple team emptied sap to monitor individual tree yield and sap sugar content…daily! The 75 research canisters will help us answer questions about how red x silver hybrid trees (Acer freemanii or “rilver” for short) compare to sugar maple production standards. The PVC canisters are a new design engineered by the team, and vacuum consistently achieved levels in the 22-25 pounds range. A drill pump mounted on a standard cordless drill boosted our sampling efficiency, and a digital Misco refractometer handled sugar readings.

While the data won’t be formally analyzed for a bit, we were surprised just how variable individual trees performed based on sap volume as well as sap sweetness. A couple trees achieved sugar content readings over 3 even at the end of the season. While other trees struggled to break 1.2 or 1.3% all season. For yield, 2-3 gallons a day was average for some trees. Normal for others amounted to just 1 or 2 quarts. The team is pulling down the research equipment now for off-season storage.

Stay tuned for updates.

Author: Gabe Karns, OSU Mansfield & SENR

What to Expect for the Rest of the 2021 Ohio Maple Season

Just like snowflakes no two maple seasons are exactly alike.  No question about it, this season fooled me. After about 5 years of early tapping, along comes 2021.  During December and January, we experienced above normal temperatures leading to what many believed would be one more in a string of early tapping seasons.  Tapping in January has become almost routine across Ohio.  However, just like a deck of playing cards, every deck has 2 jokers.  This winter season we had two meteorological jokers.

The first was the presence of a strong La Nina with its trademark warmer and wetter weather conditions.  Hidden in the background far to the North was the second joker – the always volatile and never popular polar vortex.  A polar vortex is always a possibility during the winter months.  You never know when the jet streams will line up just right and push Artic air southward into our region.  This year we did not experience the full brunt of the vortex like we did in 2014.  The coldest air stayed well to the west of Ohio.  However, we did experience a cold spell that dominated 20+ days of February.

As result of the persistent polar vortex, the start of the 2021 maple season was pushed back until the last week of February and first couple days of March.  Even southern Ohio producers were forced to tap two to three weeks later than normal.  The first of March is not historically an abnormally late starting time for maple season in Ohio.  The one dominant factor that makes this season different is that our weather is still being somewhat controlled by a strong La Nina weather pattern.  The threat of an early warm-up and above normal temperatures are real.  And the first indication of that was the stretch of 60-70 degree temperatures experienced during the middle of the second week of March.  This was enough to trigger budding in red maples and silver maples of southern Ohio.

At the same time, many sugar camps in northeast Ohio set one day records for syrup production.  Sap flows were exceptional after the long cold spell of February.  As of March 12th, the same camps are reporting a half crop entering the third week of March.  The above normal temperatures experienced at the end of the second week, pushed the season close to the brink.  Conditions also caused a dramatic change in syrup grade, and Dark Robust and even Dark Strong profiles have mostly displaced the Golden grade of early season.

The next two weeks will determine the outcome of the maple season in Ohio.  OSU Climatologist Aaron Wilson is predicting a mixed bag of weather conditions for the rest of the month.  There will be some below freezing temperatures but nothing extreme.  For southern Ohio, the trend is for slightly above normal and for northern Ohio – normal temperatures.  Again, we may or may not see those colder low temperatures needed to reset the trees and delay budding.  What is also troubling is the lack of moisture.  2021’s recent precipitation trend is not typical for a La Nina year, and drier than normal conditions are slowly creeping into Ohio.  We need precipitation, snow preferred, to keep the sap flowing, but that key factor is largely missing in the forecast for northern Ohio.  At this stage, we need a hybrid of the two jokers to keep this season productive.

I will keep my prediction for the rest of March to myself, goodness knows the first two months of 2021 fooled me.  That said, I will be able to confidently predict the outcome the 2021 maple season in Ohio on the 15th of April.  What is it they say about hindsight?

 Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension

From the Woods: Another ACER Project Update

Personal point of pride to share this photo of my 9 year old daughter Raelyn holding her first ever recorded datasheet.  She persevered for 4 hours of research last Sunday afternoon and evening to help me empty 75 sap chambers during a small sap run.  It has been a true team effort to pull off the ACER research project!  It seems uncertain right now just long the 2021 season will or will not last, but regardless, the 3 years of this project will allow us to answer some interesting and important questions for Ohio maple.

Ohio Maple Days 2021 Presentations AVAILABLE

Despite being virtual due to COVID-19, 2021 Ohio Maple Days – or more accurately Ohio Maple Day sans the “s” – was a success.  The audience, two hundred or so strong, heard presentations on tapping and updates from our ACER grants in addition to how production might be increased with red maple.  A big thanks to this year’s speakers and an extra round of applause for the committee who worked hard on an event that looked quite a bit different than in years past.  One silver lining to having a virtual event is that the sessions are easily recorded.

Visit the Ohio Woodland Stewards Maple page and scroll to the bottom of that webpage to access the different presentations.  Let us know what you think and send us any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions to talk topics for next year!

From Tree to Table: Webinar for the Maple Curious

Join OSU’s Les Ober, Geauga Co. Extension, and SENR’s Gabe Karns and Kathy Smith, for this session on how to make your own syrup or explore turning your woods into a sugarbush as an income opportunity. We will talk some history, tree species to tap, how to tap and how to boil and bottle maple sap. Have a few trees in the yard or a woods that has potential? We will try to answer all your questions.

The FREE webinar will be March 12 from 10 AM-noon.  Registration link here!

Also don’t forget this weekend is the first of 2 for the Ohio Maple Madness Spring Driving TourClick here for more information.

From the Woods: ACER Research Update

Old Man Winter finally loosened its grip and maple sap is flowing!  For comparison using growing degree days (GDD) on February 28th, we were at 16 GDDs and 22 GDDs in 2019 and 2020 at our sugarbush on the Ohio State Mansfield campus.  2021 GDDs will likely tick up for the very first time on this – the final day of February; however, the extended forecast looks iffy whether we will get many of the needed recharge cycles with nighttime temperatures in the high 20s or lower.  Whatever the season may bring, our research is progressing nicely and the first data of the 3-year project is being collected.

Students have worked hard to get PVC research canisters built to collect sap off individual maple trees.  COVID-19 reared its ugly head by disrupting the shipping supply chain and a University-wide switch to a new fiscal operating system caused further delays for all the components to arrive.  Though we had working prototypes built by early January, we used up every bit of time that Old Man Winter’s stranglehold gave us to finish the entire research system.  What a relief when the final pallet arrived, the last canister was assembled, and pressure testing confirmed our DIY canisters were a success!

With warmer temperatures on the forecast and piles of snow melting away, last week was an all-out scramble to get our upgraded vacuum pump cranking, production taps running (a smidge over 1,100 for the 2021 season), single tree canisters situated in their collection racks, research trees hooked into the research system, and an additional fleet of buckets/lids installed across campus in the crop tree release demonstration area.

Student help has been and will continue to be integral to our success.  And Anthony Tambini – a recent graduate from the School of Environment and Natural Resources – has been full-time on the project since January 1.  Without the students and his help, none of this would be possible.

Moving forward, daily sap measurements (volume and sugar content) will be taken from each individual research tree’s canister through the end of the season.  Buckets will be emptied daily in the crop tree management zone as well.  2021’s data will be the first of 3 years to examine potential differences between maple species and between crop tree treatment groups (much more on that in a later post!).

We all wonder what March and April will bring to the maple woods in the Buckeye State, but this year’s cold grip of winter and late start highlights one important principle of research.  Because of variation, multiple years of data are necessary to make reasonable research conclusions – so we are in it for the long haul!  Happy sugaring!!

Author: Gabriel Karns

2021 Ohio Maple Madness Spring Tour

Get ready for the Ohio Maple Madness Spring Tour that starts the Saturday and Sunday of March 6th and 7th and spills over to the next week, March 13-14 as well.  Inside the Spring Tour guide is a list of producers who look forward to hosting you during this year’s tour.