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.

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

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

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 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