Vacuum Tubing Systems, An Update

This is an update for an article I wrote on the Ohio Maple Blog in 2013. It was entitled “Is It the pump or the mainline size that is effecting the performance of you tubing system”. A lot of knowledge has been gained since that original article. In fact, a whole new type of gravity tubing system, 3/16, has been introduced and overwhelmingly accepted by sugarmakers.

When we talk about tubing systems we have two roads to travel. One is a gravity system and the other is a vacuum system. A conventional 5/16 gravity system is not much different from running sap into a bucket. It does save labor but the yield is much the same. When we add vacuum to a tubing system we increase the sap yield 5 to 7% for every inch of vacuum we generate in our system. For example, if we produce 15 inches of vacuum in a line we should be able to double our sap yield.

The definition of vacuum is the absence of air. The level of vacuum that is achievable is determined by the barometric pressure for any given day. This means that our vacuum level can never exceed the barometric pressure in the location of our sugar bush. There are factors that have a direct effect on Barometric pressure. One is altitude. As the altitude increases the barometric pressure decreases. At sea level, 0 altitude, the average barometric press can be 29inches and at 2000 feet the average barometric pressure is approximately 28 inches. In addition, barometric pressure changes under different environmental conditions. It can change multiple times during the course of a day. This is more important when we are boiling syrup because it changes the boiling point of water. If we are running a vacuum pump under a low barometer at an altitude of  2000 feet we might struggle to maintain 27to 28 inches of vacuum on a very tight, well maintained tubing system. This statement also emphasizes the importance of managing leaks in a vacuum tubing system. Every leak adds additional air to the system making it harder for the vacuum pump to achieve high vacuum. The amount of air moved out of a system is measured in Cubic Feet per Minute CFM. It is important to be able to differentiate between Inches of Vacuum and CFM. To successfully raise your vacuum level, you have to be able to remove the air from your tubing system. Once the air is removed, your vacuum level will increase unless you are letting air in through leaks.

Now let’s look at what happens inside a maple tubing line. A conventional vacuum pump is designed to move air not liquid.  This means that a vacuum pump is pulling air out of the system while the trees and the leaks are adding air into the system. A properly sized vacuum pump with a proper CFM rating will be capable of removing air faster that it is introduced. The only thing that will slow that process is line size. If your line diameter is to small, the air movement will be restricted requiring more time for the pump to clear the air from the lines. This is commonly referred to as Line Loss. The smaller the line the higher the line loss and the longer it will take to re-establish your peak vacuum level. That is why tubing design and pump size are so important in a conventional vacuum system. It is also very important to note, in a vacuum system, liquid does not need to be present to create a  higher vacuum. The movement of sap is secondary. As the vacuum level builds it creates a siphon that pulls the sap along with the air. In fact, when we look at the space inside a cross section of tubing we need to maintain a ratio of 60 % air and 40% liquid. If the liquid level increases or is uneven (wavy) the air movement is restricted and the inches of vacuum drop. The pump will then have to work harder to keep up and maintain peak high vacuum.

Let’s look at other alternatives to move sap in a tubing system. One of the more popular alternatives to conventional vacuum is the diaphragm pump. Let’s look at what happens with a diaphragm pump. Diaphragm pumps are water pumps that unlike vacuum pumps, are designed to move liquid. They move water not air and their  capability of creating CFM is minimal at best. Manufactures tell us that these pumps are capable of creating 20 plus inches of vacuum. How do you create a vacuum with these pumps when their ability to move CFM air is limited? In the sugar bush our lines are sloped toward our tank this allows sap to flow toward the pump. Once the pump picks up the sap on the intake side it accelerates the flow in the line. The pump simultaneously pushes the sap under pressure through the outlet. Because the pump is pulling hard on the sap, pushing it through the outlet, it creates a solid column of sap. As this column of sap moves down the line the air and the liquid combine. This creates a negative pressure on the backside of the column. This negative pressure can be measures with a vacuum gauge. This continues until the sap flow slows down. As the sap flow slows the vacuum level begins to drop. Once the flow is terminated the pump can no longer push sap through the outlet the negative pressure will ultimately disappear. If you run the pump without liquid, you risk damaging the pump. The big thing to remember is that a $200.00 diaphragm pump will not remove air from the system by itself. It has to move liquid to create a negative pressure on the backside of a column of sap. I know the above statements will create controversy from those that are using diaphragm pumps successfully. There are ways to tweak a system to create increased vacuum during low flows but the ultimate end is reduced or no vacuum. The other thing to keep in mind, if you want to be successful with a diaphragm pump, keep your tubing system free of leaks. Leaks will result in poor pump performance. Also protect you pump from freezing and ice in the lines. Ice can damage diaphragms. Diaphragm pumps are a good choice in small operations where an increased level of vacuum during a good run is better than no vacuum. They were never intended to a replace a conventional vacuum system and they never will.

The second part of this article will address the use of diaphragm pumps in a system that can preform as well as a conventional vacuum system under the right conditions. This hybrid system is a different animal, because it is used with  3/16 gravity tubing.

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January is Winter Meeting Time

Ohio’s longest running OSU Extension Maple Event is; Ohio Maple Days. Originally this program was started by the Geauga County Forestry and Maple Syrup Committee, which was part of the OSU Cooperative Extension. Going back into the Geauga County Extension files they show that the first Maple Institute was held in 1940. The committee was started in the 1930’s. During the 1940’s to the 1970’s there was actually two winter programs in Ohio. The maple Institute in Geuaga County and a similar program was held in Morrow County. That program was held in December and the Institute was annually held on the 4th Thursday in January. Over all of those decades the program was only cancelled once and that was during the great blizzard of 1978. The speaker was stranded in Chardon for a week.   The meeting name was changed to Ohio Maple Days shortly after the millennial when the program took on a statewide presence. For over 10 years Dr. Gary Graham has been the organizer. His programs are always interesting and he has had some of the top experts in the field of maple education and research as speakers. This year is no exception.

Ohio Maple Days will be held on January 17,18 & 19, 2019. The featured speaker will be Dr Tim Perkins Director of the Univ. of Vermont, Proctor Maple Research Center. Dr. Tim is a native Vermonter and he has been involved in maple production all of his life. He holds degrees in Environmental Science, Geology and Botany. During his Tenor at the Proctor Center he has published over 100 scientific and maple industry publications. His research focusing on maple tree physiology and ecology as well as maple sanitation has made him one of the foremost experts in the field of maple production today. This year he will give an overview of the research currently being done at the Proctor Center and Dr. Tim will also talk on spout and tubing sanitation in 5/16 and 3/16 tubing. The program will also include updates on the FDA Regulations from ODA Food Safety Supervisor Dan Milo. Rounding out the Program will be Dr. Gary Graham with the Popular Maple Nuggets.


Thursday, January 17 – Morrow County Lutheran Memorial Camp 2790 State Route 61

Fulton, Ohio 43321

Friday, January 18 – Wayne/Holmes County Mennonite Christian Assembly Church

10664 Fryburg Road Fredericksburg, Ohio 44627

Saturday, January 19 – Geauga County

Huntsburg Community Center

12396 Madison Road

Middlefield, Ohio 44062

Contact: OSU Extension 75east Clinton St. Suite 109, Millersburg Ohio 44654                        330-674-3015



The NW Pennsylvania Maple Producers Association will hold their annual meeting on January 26, 2019 in Saegertown Pa. This year they have invited Mike Rechlin West Virginia Department of Agriculture Maple Commodity Specialist to speak on Tapping South of the Mason Dixon Line. Making syrup in the southern regions of the maple belt is on the rise. Not only maple but alternative syrups like Birch Walnut and yes, Sycamore. West Virginia now has a thriving maple syrup industry and that led Mike to put together the Southern Syrups Research Symposium. This two-day event turned out to be more than a showcase for southern syrup making. It brought together an all-star cast of maple experts from all over North America. It also covered topics like climate change, tubing sanitation and other problems which have made syrup making more of a challenge for everyone. Mike will go over what he and others learned at the symposium and the future of the event. For more information on the meeting and to register go to


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Believe it or Not, Ohio Maple Syrup Production Tanks Again

Les Ober

Yes, it was better than the abysmal years of 2016 and 2017; Ohio Production for 2018 is reported at 90,000 gallons, eighth in the nation. This was the amount reported by USDA Nass in today’s June 2018 Crop Report. Let us take this report apart and see if you believe the results.

In the respective years of 2016 70,000 gal., 2017 80,000 gal., both of which were believable considering the extremely warm , season shorting weather that Ohio producers experienced in both years. 2018 was a different scenario altogether. Most producers I talked to did not have a great year but they did do respectable. Respectability comes in the form of a paltry 10,000-gallon increase in production. I know of five producers in NE Ohio that could have accounted for those 10,000 gallons. Now let us look at the number of taps. It remained the same as 2017 400,000 taps for the entire state of Ohio.  The only believable statistic is the yield per tap of 0.225 resulting from the low sugar content in the sap. Let us compare how neighboring states did. Pennsylvania produced 142,000 and Michigan produced 125,000 gallons respectively. That has to be a tough pill to swallow for any Buckeye Supporter.  The big winner, no surprise, Vermont with 1,940,000 gallons. New York overcame a lot of cold weather to produce a new high of 806,000 gallons. Maine produced 539,000 gallons, down from 709,000 in 2017 but they were in a deep freeze late in the season.

If my remarks seem somewhat caustic, I apologize. Yes, you can blame it on the weather or you can blame it on apathy on the part of the producers. Unfortunately, it has become a well-known fact that Ohio Maple Producers do not want to report their production. In addition, it could be the reporting system is partially to blame. Let’ s face it with a large portion of the syrup being produced in the Amish Community and a system that depends more and more on computers to get results there may be a problem. I back this up with the fact that only 400,000 taps was reported, and if that is the case, the number of taps in Ohio has literally stood still for almost ten years. No expansion in Ohio! I do not believe this to be the case. I cannot prove it but I think there are 400,000 taps in NE Ohio alone.

So why is this important? If you believe, what is reported and you are a maple producer you are now involved in a stagnant agricultural industry that is going nowhere. Whether you the producer, believes it or not, does not matter. It is what the local and state governments believe that counts. It is what Ohio State University, your agricultural educational institution believes, that counts. Right now House Bill 66 sits in front of the state legislature. If the bill passes and is signed into law maple producers would receive a significant reduction in their land taxes. At very least it might change the way counties look at CAUV for maple producers. In addition, OSU College of Food Agriculture and Environmental Sciences is being asked by the Ohio Maple Producers Association to employ additional staff to work with maple producers. Do you think this report is incentive to act on that request? More than anything else, what kind of message are we sending to Ohio consumers. If all they hear is the negative, will they believe that we have good supply maple syrup in Ohio, or should they continue to buy Vermont Syrup off the shelf ? It is time that we look at how we measure the value of the Ohio Maple Syrup Industry to Ohio’s agricultural economy. As producers, we owe it to ourselves to see that the majority of the syrup we produce goes in the record book. The future of the Ohio Maple syrup industry may depend on it.



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When to Tap?

For many of you, this information will be after the fact because you have already decided that January is a good time to tap. In fact the last 10 days of the month has had some very good weather for sap flow. If you live in the southern states or even southern Ohio the decision to tap was a good because you are never guaranteed a season past mid March. However, this post is directed more to the producers up north that are on the fence about tapping. I present three maps for your consideration. The top graph is the temperature forecast for NE Ohio from AccuWeather. Their 30 day forecasts have been reasonably reliable.  The solid orange line is the average temperature for the given dates The broken orange line is the daily highs and the broken blue line is the daily low temps. Once we get past the 5th of February it appears the we are going to drop below normal and stay there until the end of the month. Again this is a 30 day outlook but it matches up with what all of the local weather stations are predicting.

february Forecast

The Next graph is NOAA Weathers Forecast for February. This Graph is indicating we will have equal chances of being above normal, normal or below normal, at least for Ohio. What is interesting, is all of the above normal weather extending up into New England.

Februar Temp

The last Graph is the AccuWeather Forecast for Underhill Vermont, home of the UVM Proctor Maple Research Center. I picked this location because they do a marvelous job of tracking weather data. There temperatures graph appears to be slightly milder than the Ohio graph, with a couple of above normal spikes.  The thing to notice is the sharp rise in the daily high temperature’s at the end of February.


I hope this information will help to make your decision easier. Keep in mind that these are  along range forecasts and they are subject to error. Also keep in mind if they are right and you tap this weekend, your window to collect sap will be very narrow and you could be frozen out for three weeks or longer. Also consider what the capabilities of your collection system.


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The 3/16 Tubing Revolution

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A New Maple Syrup Season is Just around the Corner

It is New Year’s Day 2018 and I am looking out my window at scene straight out of Frozen. I am also contemplating how this polar vortex, we have been locked into for the last 10 days will affect the 2018 maple sugaring season. What a difference 12 months makes! Last year it was 60 degrees on Christmas Day. We had just come through a very warm fall and many producers wondered how the abundance of warm weather would affect sap flow. We did get some cold weather the first week of January but what happened after that first week was record was one for the record books.

I wrote on January 12th that taping was underway, not just in Southern Ohio, but North East Ohio and on up into New England as well. It was called the earliest maple season ever. The Maple News documented the early tappers in action. As hard as it was to believe, January was the month to make syrup in 2017. February turned out to be a bust, ending in 70 plus temperatures on February 24th. The season came to an abrupt end in Ohio the first week of March. The 2017season in Ohio will be remembered for its early start and early finish. For Northeastern producers the windfall of good syrup production continued on into April producing some of the biggest crop ever in the New England and Quebec.  What about 2018?

The long range forecast is calling for the first 10 days of January to be brutally cold for everyone. That could be followed by a January Thaw but nothing like the warmup we experienced in 2017. Starting in February, the crystal ball of weather predictions gets a little hazy. It appears that Ohio and Pa. will revert back to normal or below normal. I hope someone can refresh my memory as to what normal really is, because it has been so long since I experienced normal I forgot what it looks like. If the forecast is right the Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan and Northern Ohio will stay frozen through part of February. This may also hold true in New York and parts of New England, but in areas along the coast it could go above normal, as the weather fronts move up the east coast. Those weather fronts could mean heavy snow for those areas. That brings us to March where a warming trend could take place across the region. All of this is driven by a strengthening La Nina. In 2018 March could once again win back the title of Maple Month.

Ok we all know that these long range forecasts are heavily dependent on the “SWAG” factor leaving everyone guessing. So what should you do to get ready for the 2018 season? Now is the time to get into the woods and make sure your lines are up and ready to go. That is unless you live in places like Erie Pa. where they currently have 52 inches of snow on the ground. In that case go to your closest outdoor equipment shop and buy several pair of snowshoes, your going to need them. Now is the time to watch the weather trends, especially going into February. With new technology we can tap two months in advance and still not take a hit on yield. The heavier the snow accumulation, the more preparation is needed, because it takes a lot more time to get ready when you are dealing with heavy snow and cold. Remember, trees do not care how much snow is in the woods. When it warms up and the snow starts to melt they start to run. If we have learned anything from the last 5 seasons it should be that maple sugaring seasons do not creep in like they did in the old days. The weather can change drastically overnight and you have to be ready when it gets here. This year the early bird may not get the worm, it may be the one that is able to recognize the season when it gets here that will be the winner. Do not get caught with you buckets (lines) down.

This is the first of many posts on the Ohio Maple Blog. Follow us on line and on Facebook. We will be tracking the 2018 season on Facebook so send your progress reports and pictures to the Ohio Maple Blog Facebook Page. Educational articles will be posted directly to the Blog and if you follow us on Facebook you will receive them. If you are not on Facebook then view the blog on line to read the latest posts. Remember we also have the new Hobby Maple Production Fact Sheet available on line. There will be a link posted on the blog. Post questions to our Facebook page and I will do my best to answer them in a timely manner. Thank you for supporting the Ohio Maple Blog and I hope all of you have a Happy New Year and a productive 2018 maple season

Les Ober Geauga County OSU Extension

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OSU Reintroduces the Hobby Maple Syrup Production Factsheet


One of the most popular fact sheets on the Ohio State University’s Ohioline has always been the Hobby Maple Syrup Production fact sheet. Ohioline is the source for all of the fact sheets published by OSU Extension and the College of Food Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The Original fact sheet was written by OSU State Forestry and Maple Specialist Dr. Randall Hiligmann emeritus. That fact sheet has served as a guide for thousands of new aspiring maple producers.  Anyone who has made maple syrup in the backyard knows that it is truly something that the whole family can enjoy. At the end of the season you are left with some fond memories and a container of maple syrup that the entire family can enjoy. It may not be the best maple syrup you have ever tasted but it is your maple syrup. That is what makes this hobby and the  publication popular.

It has been an honor to work with  co-author, OSU Forestry Specialist Kathy Smith to bring you an updated version of the Hobby Maple Syrup Production fact sheet. You can download a copy of the new fact sheet at : Hobby Maple Syrup Production

I hope you enjoy this publication and find it useful and may your upcoming maple season be long and sweet.

Les Ober Geauga County OSU Extension


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Sugarhill Container Price Increase

Below is a letter from the President of Hillside Plastics, Peter Haas.

September 2017

Dear Sugarhill® Customer,

As you may know, Hurricane Harvey created record damage to the petrochemical industry since it made landfall in Texas.  The impact of the storm has been substantial creating significant outages and logistics challenges.  The lingering flooding continues to pose a threat to the plastic bottle industry via disruption in supply.  As a direct result of the damage created by Hurricane Harvey, our resin suppliers declared Force Majeure earlier in September.

We having been doing everything in our power to secure back-up stocks, shift logistics to find alternate means to avoid interruption of supply, etc.  Thus far, despite being on Force Majeure allocation, we have been successful in preventing any significant interruptions to our customers.  Our priority continues to be to do everything we can to continue to provide you quality product with minimal interruption of supply.

This situation has resulted in substantial cost increases for HDPE resin and the logistics to have it delivered to our facility. To that end, we must increase prices by 10%, effective with shipments on 10/1/17 and thereafter.

As always, we sincerely appreciate your business and understanding of this necessary increase.


Pete Haas


262 Millers Falls Road

Turners Falls, MA 01376

(413) 863-2222

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October 15th Pre-registration Deadline for the 2017 Lake Erie Maple Expo Approaching.

Les Ober, OSU Extension Geauga County

It is hard to believe that it has been six years since the concept of developing a maple syrup educational tradeshow, located in the central maple syrup producing region of the country, became a reality. Traditionally the majority of the educational seminars, on maple production, have been centered in New England and New York.  The idea of bringing a maple syrup expo to the shores of Lake Erie was definitely a long shot. However, the LEME planning committee, made up of producers from Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York put together a program that was designed to meet the needs of maple producers in this region. They also realized that they could tap into a whole new audience that were not making the trip to the eastern programs and would really appreciate a chance to attend a maple syrup tradeshow in their home region. The LEME popularity has grown proportionally over the last 5 years. Over 500 producers came to the LEME last year. This year’s edition will continue to raise the bar when it comes to maple syrup education.

What can producers expect when they walk through the doors on November 10 & 11, 2017? On Friday the LEME will present a series of 4 hour workshops where producers have the opportunity of focusing on one specific topic. One of the highlights this year’ workshop series will be a Woods Walk and Talk with Glenn Goodrich. This workshop will offer a rare opportunity to learn the basics of sugarbush layout and design from one of the most respected experts in the maple Industry.  Another area many producers struggle with is tree health and management. To address this topic the LEME has once again invited Cornell University Extension Forester Dr. Peter Smallidge who will present a workshop on Sugarbush Management. For producers interested in a more in-depth look at maple syrup processing there will be three workshops to choose from. This year’s Boiling Workshop will be presented by Kevin Lawyer from the Leader Evaporator Co.  RO information is always in demand and the LEME has once again invited NY Maple Specialist Stephen Childs to discuss RO’s For the Small Producer. One of the most talked about areas in maple production is the adoption of the new grading system and how it relates to maple syrup quality.  Les Ober from OSU Extension along with Ohio Maple Producer and Maple Products Judge James Miller will go in-depth on the topic; Maple Grading and Quality Assurance How Can It Help You? Other workshops include a Beginners Workshop with Laura Dengler and Mark Lewis, A Museum Talk with Janet Woods and a Confections Workshop with Jake Moser. The registration for the Workshops is separate from the Expo registration. The cost to attend a 4 hour workshops is $30.00 which includes lunch.

After the workshops the program shifts back to Northwestern High School where the tradeshow will open at 5:00pm. The program will include maple equipment and more maple equipment along with a panel discussion at 6:30 pm. With all of the expansion in the maple Industry and the recent down turn in bulk prices, have you ever wondered “Where is The Maple Industry Headed?” The panel of expert’s discussion topic, by the same name, should shed some light on the subject.  Panel members include Glen Goodrich of Goodrich Maple, Carl Lapierre from Lapierre Maple Equipment and Joe Orefice, newly named Director of Cornell’s Uihlein Forest Research Center. If you are interested in knowing what the future may hold for the North American Maple Industry in the next 5 years and beyond, you will not want to miss this discussion.

On Saturday the Trade Show will open at 8:00 am followed by concurrent seminars where producers will be able to choose from over 40 different topics. Here is a sampling of the topics at this year’s LEME. Center Acer’s Martin Pelletire who will discuss the Center’s research on Off Flavors. Cornell University is represented by four speakers in this year program. NY Maple Specialist, Steve Childs will demonstrate how to use Vacuum Cooling to improve making maple candy and cream and an overview of maple research at the Cornell Maple Program. Dr. Peter Samllidge will present several programs related to sugarbush improvement and tree health.  Joe Orefice will present two topics on timber production.  Mark Cannella from Cornell’s Cooperative Extension will discuss putting together a business plan for your maple operation.  Les Ober from OSU Extension will offer two programs for the new producer. Industry presentations  include; The Principals of Vacuum and Pump Selection with Carl Lapierre, a boiling  seminar by Leader Evaporator sugarbush monitoring systems from Marcland and a Spin-Fusion demo from CDL. There will also be a wide variety of programs on confections and value added products presented by local and regional producers. A complete updated list of this year’s topics will be available by Mid-September.

Come join your fellow maple producers at the 2017 LEME, November 10 & 11, 2017 at Northwestern High School in Albion Pa. Friday morning the workshops will start at 10:00am at different venues across the area.  Friday evening the doors to tradeshow open at 5:00pm and the show will run until 8:00 pm. The evening program will begin at 6:30pm in the Auditorium. Saturday’s program will start with the tradeshow at 8:00am the educational seminars will begin at 9:00. The cost of both Friday evening and all day Saturday programs is 40.00 dollars. Lunch is included. Please plan on preregistering by Oct 15th.  A late registration fee will be charged after that date. For complete registration information go online to the Northwestern Penn. Maple Producer Association website

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2017 Maple Syrup Production in Ohio Better Than 2016

Les Ober

Geauga County OSU Extension

The production results from The USDA NASS Survey were published on June 9th. For Ohio the numbers were an improvement over 2016, but not by much. This year Ohio Produced 80,000 gallons, an improvement over the 70,000 gallons produced last year. Once again 75% of the producing states improved their production and for some it was a major improvement.  New York and Maine each added close to 50,000 gallon to last year’s production. The nation’s leading producer of maple syrup is no surprise, Vermont. Vermont is in no danger of losing its crown; production was once again just under 2,000,000 gallons. Finishing out the top 5 were New York with 760,000 gallons, Maine with 709,000, Wisconsin with 200,000 and New Hampshire with 154,000 gallons. Ohio continues to slide in its ranking to a disappointing   9th place. However, Ohio producers did increase production over 2016 by 10,000 due to an early start. The earliest recorded start date in Ohio was January 1, 2017, 25 days earlier than 2016. The problem is that when you look at the average start date across the state it was February 11th. That was problem given the mild weather conditions we experienced in January.  You also have to consider that the temperature reached 77degrees F at CLE on February 24th and the season ended early around March 16th. By comparison Vermont recorded their earliest start on January 1, their average starting date was February 24th and their average closing date was April 10th , that translate into 2 million gallons of  syrup produced over a 3 month period. Both New York and Maine had similar scenarios.

There were not many changes in the weather pattern experienced in 2016.  Weather, once again had a negative effect on production in the Buckeye State while the mild weather in the East boosted production in that region. Increasing tap numbers and warmer weather early in the season has allowed producers in that region to dramatically increase production.  Climate change is definitely opening up opportunities to make syrup in the northern regions of states like Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire. Production is being expanded in regions that are at a higher elevation where traditional maple production was once hampered by steep slopes and short seasons. Now with the advent of vacuum and 3/16 tubing systems along with the trend toward early tapping, production has exploded in the form of huge 100,000 plus operations. Modern sugaring operations in the eastern states are not only big but they are efficient. The amount of Syrup per Tap in the big three has steadily increased and stayed around .300 gallons of syrup per tap. This has pushed the average syrup produced per tap in the United States to over .300 tap. This was an area where Ohio was once a leader but recently Ohio production has declined to .200 per tap. You can clearly blame, two poor production years in a row for this decline.

One final statistic that has shown a modest improvement over last year, but is still below 2015, is the number of taps recorded in the Buckeye State, showing only 400,000 taps in 2017. For anyone working closely with the Ohio maple industry this statistic is mind boggling given that expansion going on in sugar bushes across the state over the last 5 years. The only explanation for this is that a large portion of the syrup being produced in Ohio is going unreported. Another statistic that tends to cast suspicion on validity of Ohio’s maple production statistics is how Ohio producers choose to market their syrup. In 2015 44% of Ohio producers sold to the retail market. That number has dropped to 30% in 2016. At the same time the Bulk sale market share has gone from 32% in 2015 to 43% in 2016 ( note these numbers are always one year behind the current year).  Look at the marketing trends of big three (VT, NY & Maine) you will see that in the areas of expansion and big  production the largest percentage of their syrup is sold on the bulk market,46% in NY,  86% in  Vt. and 93% in Maine.  Now take a look at a state of Connecticut and you will see they sell over 50% retail. Makes you wonder how much syrup is actually being produced in Ohio and is being sold out the backdoor to eastern and western packers. If this true, it is sad, because the demand for maple syrup is on the increase in Ohio and the stores are flooded with Canadian and Eastern States syrup.

So what have we learned from the last several maple seasons and how can we improve our maple production?  The one thing that is clear is that the last five years have not been normal seasons for producing maple syrup. 2017, 2016 and 2013 were all warmer than normal and if you wanted to maintain average production for your operation you had to start early to get the early runs. This was especially true in 2017. Even the Polar Vortex Years of 2014 and 2015 presented their challenges due to the extremely cold winters and late starts that we experienced. The fact is, when the weather is right make the move and tap the trees. In most cases you will never make up for production lost early in the season by trying to extend the season at the tail end. Another factor is syrup quality. It is much easier to make a quality product in the first half of the season rather than struggling to make quality syrup while battling warm weather and increased bacterial contamination at the end. Hopefully 2018 will be a banner year for Ohio Maple producers, we are long overdue for a good one.


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