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