Warm winters crippling maple syrup production - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Warm winters crippling maple syrup production

An employee of Parker's Maple Barn in New Hampshire carries tree sap he gathered from metal buckets. (Source: AP/ Elise Amendola) An employee of Parker's Maple Barn in New Hampshire carries tree sap he gathered from metal buckets. (Source: AP/ Elise Amendola)

(RNN) - Maple syrup makers fear a bitter harvest after an unusually warm winter. Climate change is affecting the harvests from New England to Michigan, creating warm days and far fewer icy nights that are critical to maple trees producing flavorful sap.

The sap depends on a process of freezing and thawing to enable syrup making, WWMT reported.

“As long as it is above freezing during the day and below freezing at night they get a really good sap flow,” Michigan State educator Mark Longstroth said to the Western Michigan TV station.

In Michigan, many nights have seen temperatures of 40 degrees and higher, which has destabilized the process.

In maple syrup country, that classifies as extreme weather because it can ruin a crop.

The sap has a lower sugar content and just tastes bad, causing some longtime producers to worry about their livelihood.

In New England, producers are running scared.

Ray LaRoche of Durham, NH, said when he bought his farm in 2000, he was producing about 75 gallons of maple syrup each season. That’s now down to 15 gallons, he told Associated Press.

Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire fears that her state is going to lose one of its most valuable agricultural products. The ideal temperatures are 20s and night and 40s during the day, she said. When the temperatures don’t fall below freezing at night, the sap doesn’t run to the taps but to the top of trees, causing them to bloom.

In Michigan, the syrup season has started about 10 days to two weeks early, a maple syrup producer said. In New England, farmers have had to resort to trial-and-error to find the right time to tap their trees to get the best flow of sap.

Early season syrup is bitter and lighter in color than the sweet, darker shades that consumers prefer. The lighter-colored syrup is often cloudy, giving it an unappetizing appearance.

Maple syrup production already has dwindled in the south part of the Michigan, and experts are concerned the same could happen to West Michigan if the trend continues.

The syrup industry in North Ohio and Indiana is in even worse shape, Longstroth said.

The United States produces about 1.3 million gallons of maple syrup a year, generating an average of about $40 million. 

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