MapleMAPS

The University of Southern Maine’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) and the Atlantic Corporation recently released MapleMAPS, short for Maple Market Assessment and Planning System.  MapleMAPS provides access to over 20,000 survey responses from across the United States focused consumer preference data for maple syrup and other maple products.  According to the MapleMAPS website, MapleMAPS provides “tools that all maple syrup producers can easily use for business planning and forecasting based on specific market opportunities in their respective and neighboring states and regions, and will lead to benefits such as increased consumption of domestic maple syrup and increased sales and better profit margins for producers.”

Digging in a bit on this end, Ohio was nested with 4 other states – Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin – to form the East North Central region.  While we work more collaboratively with the states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, it is important to note this distinction when examining the results.

From high level data, such as how much money the average maple customer spends annually…

…to much more specific information, such as this little nugget.  Of all the specific maple products evaluated, Ohio customers ranked maple water as LEAST available – a market opportunity perhaps?

To give you a taste of some of the other data available, here are just a few other bits of information pulled from the MapleMAPS searchable database.

Container material preference – most folks prefer glass and opaque plastic jugs were least popular from a desirability standpoint.

One more – 86% of survey respondents said they consumed at least 1 maple product during the summer, but use was relatively infrequent for most, only about once or a couple times per month.

The MapleMAPS tool is a deep well that can be explored for as long as you have time to dedicate to the database.  And I don’t believe the collaborating partners over-promise on the value of the resource – it is thorough and user friendly and certainly useful.  This is the exact sort of information that can make us all better marketers of our maple.

Southern Syrup Symposium Coming Soon

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 Delta variant, this fall’s Southern Syrup Symposium has been suspended until further notice.  Organizers are working to figure out if a virtual gathering later in the fall can be organized.  We will be sure to update when we know more.

This year’s Southern Syrup Symposium needs to be on your radar especially if you are a producer in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, or of course Ohio.  The Southern Syrup Symposium brings together maple experts from all over, but the programming always has a little special emphasis on maple across the southern geographic tier.  This year’s event starts at noon on Friday, September 24th with your choice between 2 field workshops before the full-day program on Saturday, September 25th.  Lots of food and fellowship is mixed in throughout.  Talk topics cover the gamut from forest management to quality tasting syrup-making tips, climate impacts on maple and research updates – including ours!

Registration is open now and is available here.  See you in Morgantown!

July-October Webinar Series through UVM

Beginning Wednesday, July 21st, the University of Vermont is offering an excellent line-up of 8 webinars spanning into October.

The full topic line-up includes Total Yields from Red Maple (7/21), Maple Start-up Profiles and Financial Benchmarks (7/28), Best Practices for Birch Syrup Flavor (8/11), Sugarbush Inventory Methods (8/25), Sap-only Enterprises (9/15), Binding Contracts and Legal Agreements (9/29), Maple Forests and Carbon (10/13), and Northeast Forest Land Taxes and Programs (10/27).  While not all topics will apply directly to Buckeye State maple producers, many do and promise to be highly informative.

Full details with registration links are available here.

Maple Syrup History Site

Some of you may already be familiar with the Maple Syrup History website, but I am sure this will be new news to others.

Maple Syrup History is a smattering of historical accounts, product history, state-based events and turning points, and more – in the author’s own words, “a wide range of interests in all things maple.”  Matthew Thomas, an independent researcher with a PhD in Environmental Studies from University of Wisconsin, has been researching, compiling, and writing about maple history for over 20 years.

With so much content to sift through and peruse, I would encourage you to scroll down and keep your eye on the right margin for the Categories section where you can search specific topics.  OHIO is on the list, that’s a great place to start!

ACER Research Update: June 2021

We are continuing to make progress on our ACER grant “Freeman’s maple (red x silver) potential for syrup production and resilience in Ohio’s forests.”  Earlier in the month, we collected a series of reference samples from Secrest Arboretum and other locations of pure red maples, pure silver maples, and Freeman’s maples to dial in our approach for identifying individual trees in the Ohio State University-Mansfield research sugarbush via genetics.  The Molecular & Cellular Imaging Center at Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster is processing the tissue samples in order to refine our genetic markers that are particularly useful for pinpointing hybridity of the Freeman’s or “rilver” maple.

How does one use genetics to identify different species or hybrids between two species?

Labs can slice out key segments of the DNA chain from extracted genetic material from plant cells, tissues, and seeds.  Once the right part of the DNA chain is isolated, a process called amplification copies and replicates the genomic material to make the diagnostic markers easier to interpret.  Polymerase chain reaction (PCR for short) is the most common method of amplification.

Try thinking about amplification this way.

You have no doubt used a photocopier in the past.  PCR is just a biotechnology copying machine.  Just as you might use your office equipment to make 100 copies of a single page out of a big book, PCR allows you to make copies of only the DNA piece that holds the information of interest.  There is one key difference (among many!) between your normal office copier and this biotech PCR process though.  A copier makes a stack of copies 1, 2, 3, 4, …97, 98, 99, and 100.  PCR makes copies more efficiently, exponentially actually – 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, …128, 256, 512, so on and so forth.

Enough about amplification, what can we do with diagnostic markers once we have made a whole bunch of duplicates.  Genetic markers are essentially genetic fingerprints.  The unique segments of DNA – the genetic fingerprints – differentiate different species from one another or show varying degrees of hybridity.  These fingerprints can be visualized with another lab process called gel electrophoresis.  Another big word, apologies.  But the main point is this – gels allow us to see, actually see with the naked eye, the genetic fingerprint of our sample and allow us to decide which species or hybrid we are examining.

Above is a panel of genetic fingerprints for differentiating silver maple on the left and red maples on the right.  The image was published as part of a study in 2019.  You can see that silver maples on the left are characterized by two bright bold lines at the bottom of the panel and a third almost halfway up.  Red maples, on the other hand, share the top and bottom band with silver maples, but have a different unique fingerprint with the second marker landing halfway in between.

Enough Genetics 101 for now…the ACER research continues to progress, and we are working toward a more reliable way of understanding how much red versus silver maple genetics are in our “rilver” research maples.

Author: Gabe Karns, OSU Mansfield & SENR

Maple Programming Survey – Please Participate!

Last week, we shared the exciting news that Ohio Maple Days will be making its IN-PERSON return on December 11th in Ashland, OH.

Ohio Maple Days Save the Date Flyer – December 11, 2021

This week, we want to invite you to participate in a survey to help inform statewide maple programming into the future.  By ranking your interest level across different maple-related topics and providing specific content ideas, we plan to use survey feedback to mold and shape high quality maple programming at Ohio Maple Days and other events – outreach and education that is most useful and most valuable to maple producers throughout the Buckeye State.

Click here to participate anonymously in the survey.

Ohio Maple Days Announcements

We are excited to announce that Ohio Maple Days will be returning IN-PERSON on December 11th after a necessary virtual COVID-19 interruption earlier in January.  Mark your calendars for December 11th in Ashland, Ohio, and get ready to rendezvous with maple producers from around the state to hear great talks from excellent speakers, browse a selection of maple vendors, and reconnect face-to-face with your maple community.

Switching Ohio Maple Days to a one-day main event and moving from January to early December is not exactly going back to the way things were pre-pandemic, but the decisions were collectively made after much discussion between Gary Graham, the Ohio Maple Producers Association board, and the rest of the Ohio State maple team.

Please read the following letter from Gary Graham expressing his delight in the 2+ decades of organizing Ohio Maple Days, and his optimism for the future of Ohio Maple Days moving forward.

Stay tuned for registration details in the next month or two.  Check back next week to participate in a survey that solicits your topic preference for maple programming at Ohio Maple Days and other events in the future.

Forest Change through Time: A Woodworking Project

My eye caught upon this unique woodworking project at a friend’s house over Memorial Day weekend festivities.  Eventually my appreciation was replaced by conversation, and I’m happy that my friend was willing to share a photograph of his handiwork with the Ohio Maple Site.

He was inspired to create the art piece by 2 primary literature sources.  The first – an article in the academic journal PLOS ONE entitled “Four Centuries of Change in Northeastern United States Forests” – provided most of the tree composition data from 1600 to present at half century increments.  The second – a book chapter entitled “New England’s Forest Landscape: Ecological Legacies and Conservation Patterns Shaped by Agrarian History” was authored by researchers at Harvard and a few other universities.  This second resource provided data on forest cover percentages for the region over the same time span.

To focus more on the art itself, the height of each overall column represents the percentage of forest cover in the northeastern United States, which reached a low point in the mid-late 19th century.  Each individual wooden panel tracks a common tree species or genus through time; from bottom to top: beech, oak, maple, hemlock, birch, pine, chestnut, ash, and fir.  Chestnut notably disappears in the jump from 1850 to 1900 as a result of the chestnut blight, and ash will certainly be affected similarly during this time step from 2000 to 2050 due to the emerald ash borer.

But maple, oh maple!  Maple has asserted its dominance throughout many portions of the northeastern United States, and maple now has more standing stock volume than any other species group region-wide.  And it’s not even close.  The reasons and driving factors are diverse, and perhaps someday we’ll write some posts to address the why of broad shifts in tree species composition.  But for now, let’s just admire a truly unique and inspired piece of artwork that tells a story we can all appreciate.

Author: Gabriel Karns, Ohio State

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.

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