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

Getting Started in Maple – FREE webinars 1/18 & 1/25

Penn State Extension is offering free webinars to maple beginners on January 18th (noon) and January 25th (7 PM).

Topics covered will include identifying different maple tree species, proper tapping procedures, boiling the sap, and filtering the final syrup product.  Registration is FREE, click here for more information.

2021 Ohio Maple Days – Virtual Event Announcement

Join us for the virtual version of Ohio Maple Days on Friday, January 15th!  Due to COVID-19 restrictions Ohio Maple Days will take place all on one day and be offered virtually.  The event will be recorded and available afterwards for viewing.  For questions contact Dr. Gary Graham (email: graham.124@osu.edu).

The registration link and more details about the agenda can be found here.  We hope to see you there!

For Maple Producers (and everyone else for that matter), 2020 Has Been Different!

I thought everyone would appreciate an article that provides an update on how the world of maple education is adapting to the pandemic. First, I suppose everyone realizes that normal is still a way off in the future, but that has not stopped us from delivering maple education. All the normal events, the Lake Erie Maple Expo, the Southern Syrup Research Symposium and the New York Mid-Winter Conference among others, have been cancelled. But in their place, a series of virtual maple programs have been delivered by specialists from across the maple producing regions. Let us step back to April and see where we have been and where we are going

In April 2020, everything came to a standstill as COVID-19 numbers increased in the United States. The pandemic had major impacts on the food production chain and food processing/distribution system. It was also a difficult time for Extension educators. Most of April and May were spent adjusting our work schedules to abide by rapidly changing health regulations. We were and are still working mostly from home.  In-person meetings were all but cancelled, and teams of educators started brainstorming new ways to communicate with producers. It is very fortunate that we have access to virtual technologies in 2020 that were not available as little as just 5 years ago.

By June, plans were being formulated to find creative ways of delivering important information to our producers. As luck would have it, three universities from Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania (Ohio State, Penn State, and West Virginia’s Future Generations University) were awarded an ACER Access Grant in autumn 2019. The grant’s primary purpose was to conduct two surveys and collect information to help develop marketing opportunities across the region. Along with the surveys going out across the 3 states, outreach programs have been presented virtually with the next webinar launching at 7 PM on December 17th. COVID-19 slowed the survey timeline, but the first program series came out in June helping producers struggling to sell maple product during the pandemic. This was the first of what would become a series of monthly programs. In the months to follow, UVM Proctor Research Center and The Cornell Maple Program started producing virtual programs as well. In addition, we here at Ohio State University launched this new Ohio State Maple website that took much of my previous posts and expanded it to include contributions from additional authors as well as a host of education, extension, research, and other maple-related content.

For Ohio State University, decisions to drastically alter the long-established Extension model of outreach and education have not been easy decisions to make nor been made lightly.  We hope our audiences understand and appreciate our commitment to new and virtual programming, but we also understand that virtual remote programming is far from perfect. We also understand that in the rural portions of our state internet connections are less than optimal providing barriers to accessibility.  Many have found ways to adapt, and we are also recording and archiving programs so you can view them later at your convenience.  We are also looking into ways we can deliver this current and relevant outreach to our Amish maple producers community

Where does this leave us going into the winter months, and when will in-person programming return? I cannot speak for other institutions because health rules vary from state-to-state, but this is what I see happening at OSU. Right now, we are operating under Ohio’s health mandate. Group size maximums are still set at 10 people (including instructors), though with increasing case levels, all in-person meetings are now on hold except for critical circumstances. Everyone including the instructor must wear a mask, and it is preferred that meetings be held outside. All meetings must strictly follow CDC guidelines. Because of the current and strict regulations at the state and university level, we have decided to continue with the path of virtual leaning. It is not unforeseeable to see the trend continuing far into 2021. A committee is currently planning the 2021 Ohio Maple Days, and it will be presented in a virtual format. Plans are to present the program virtually so that everyone can stay safe at home and view the program. The Ohio Maple Producers Association is making provisions to make the program available to those who do not have internet, details forthcoming. Pre-registration for the 2021 Ohio Maple Days will be required.

As we approach winter, uncertainty still looms on the horizon. I encourage you all to be patient, and if and as often as you can, to take advantage of the virtual programs being offered. We will continue to keep you posted on upcoming programs and events on the Ohio State Maple site. Just like you, I deeply miss the opportunity to attend events like the Lake Erie Maple Expo and fellowship in-person with everyone at the Ohio Maple Days event. Not being able to walk into a room filled with polished stainless and not being able to visit with my fellow producers is more than disappointing. Eventually, we will move beyond COVID-19, and the events we look forward too will return. And when they do, they will be bigger and better than ever. For now, be safe and stay healthy!

Author: Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension

Spotted Lanternfly in Ohio

Even though it is 2020, there is still lots for which to be thankful.  That said, spotted lanternfly’s detection in the state isn’t on the list of items to be grateful.  As many have likely heard already, Jefferson County registered Ohio’s first confirmed detection of spotted lanternfly in late October.

Since then, agencies and officials have been scrambling to assess and monitor the location searching for additional evidence of the forest pest.  Beth Burger of the Columbus Dispatch wrote a nice article yesterday providing more details about the initial detection site and subsequent actions taken to lock down further spread.

Ohio State’s CFAES website just released an informative article too about Ohio’s most recent member of the state’s confirmed invasive species list.

We have already been urging vigilance among maple producers and woodland owners due to the species’ sweet tooth for the Acer genus.  Now your focused attention is even more important!  Should you discover evidence of spotted lanternfly, you MUST report sightings to Ohio Department of Agriculture’s website or the Great Lakes Early Detection Network for invasive and noxious species.

You can expect to see more about the spotted lanternfly in coming months as the second ACER grant award contains support to equip and empower Ohio’s maple producers to be active participants in spotted lanternfly surveillance.  In the meantime, be thankful for Ohio’s fleet of professional agencies and organizations who are actively working to combat spread of spotted lanternfly and other invasive species to protect our state’s great forests.

Author: Gabe Karns

WATCH: Climate and Maple Webinar

The OH / WV / PA maple collaboration produced a great webinar thanks to the expertise of Aaron Wilson, an Ohio State climate research scientist.

Here is a summary of the talk: The maple syrup industry is impacted by both seasonal weather and long-term changes in climate. While the short-term conditions impact annual production cycles and quality, long term changes in climate are having an impact as well. Temperatures across the maple syrup production areas of the US are warming, and climate change extends well beyond just temperature to include shifts in seasonal precipitation patterns and increasingly extreme events. Projections of future climate pose significant risks to the future of maple production across southern zones.

Watch the webinar on YouTube to explore the influence of weather and climate change on the maple industry and discuss the implications for the future.

Tune in next month on December 17th to another webinar in the same Out of the Woods: Enriching Your Maple Business series hosted by Future Generations University in West Virginia.

 

Spot the Spot: Friday in the Woods Webinar

Amy Stone, OSU Extension educator for Lucas County, Ohio, will be presenting a webinar on November 13th from 10 AM-noon on the spotted lanternfly.  From state and national spotted lanternfly updates to the latest on host plant distributions and invasive pest insect research – you won’t want to miss this one.

Maple producers across the region should be informed on this invasive forest pest and be part of the solution to ensure early detection and rapid quarantine limits damage on Ohio’s forests.

The webinar is part of the Friday in the Woods series hosted by OSU’s Woodland Stewards ProgramYou can register here – FREE.  ISA and SAF credits are available.

Ohio State Maple Syrup AVAILABLE

Maple syrup from The Ohio State University-Mansfield campus is available for purchase.  Produced from sap of the research and demonstration sugarbush, the maple syrup is bottled in 1/2 pint (glass bottles), pint, quart, and half gallon containers (rest are jugs).  As an extra bonus, the 2020 run of syrup, which is currently available, carries the 150th sesquicentennial logo for OSU’s important anniversary.

Importantly, OSU syrup sale proceeds contribute to maintenance of the sugarbush, seed money for research, funding maple-related student internships and research opportunities, and more.  To place an order, visit Ohio State’s Woodland Stewards website.  We can ship syrup to your door or you can request a pick-up in Columbus or in Mansfield.

For those already shopping for holiday gifts, a case of 20, 1/2 pint glass bottles is available at a good discount.  Email karns.36@osu.edu for discount details.

Click on the Mansfield Maple tab for more information about the sugarbush at OSU-Mansfield!

Ohio State Receives 2nd ACER Research Award in 2 Years!!

We are excited to announce our new research project “Freeman’s Maple (red x silver) Potential for Syrup Production and Resilience in Ohio’s Forests.”  The announcement came in the 2020 round of USDA ACER funded proposals.  Click over to the Mansfield Maple tab to learn a bit more about the grant and what you can expect from the project over the next 3-4 years.

Suffice it to say, the grant will be keeping us busy for the foreseeable future, and we are excited to advance Ohio’s role in better understanding, utilizing, and protecting our maple resource.  Stay tuned for updates.

This is the second ACER award in as many years – you can read more about the Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania cooperative project under the ‘Research’ tab.  (And a friendly reminder related to last year’s ACER grant – FILL OUT THOSE PRODUCERS SURVEYS!!)

Author: Gabe Karns

Complete & Return Your Maple Producer Survey

URGENT: Please do us the favor of returning your producer survey in our ACER research project!

As you might know already, we (Ohio State University) were awarded an ACER grant in 2019 in collaboration with Future Generations University in West Virginia and Penn State University.  You can peek under the Research tab on the Ohio State Maple site or read this press release through the School of Environment and Natural Resources webpage for more general information about the award.

A main focus of the award was to send a survey to Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania producers to update our knowledge of production practices, where producers are marketing and moving maple syrup and other value-added maple products, and get a grasp on maple production numbers across the tri-state region.  The latter piece of information is extra important now that Ohio has been removed from the list of states in USDA’s NASS maple survey.

Survey science is a tricky business and while we do not need every single producer to respond, each response helps.  Each producer increases sample size and incrementally reduces our uncertainty about the different elements we are trying to explore.  Due to the fact that only Pennsylvania is still on the list of NASS-surveyed maple states (West Virginia and Ohio having been dropped), getting a firm grasp on production data will be more important than ever.  Our tri-state team sent nearly 2,000 surveys to producers across the 3 states and is currently rolling out a round of “take your survey” reminders.  All respondents’ returned surveys are de-identified and we don’t share data with anyone outside the primary ACER award team, and you can be assured that your confidentiality is being prioritized!

So we will leave it at that.  Please, if you received a producers survey from Ohio State’s ACER team, be an active member of the maple community and make your anonymous contribution on behalf of the broader maple community.  We value your input and look forward to sharing results when the surveys are in and the analysis starts!

Author: Gabe Karns