Climate change affects maple syrup producers
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New Hampshire's maple syrup producers say they are feeling the impact of climate change. Winters have become warmer. The frigid nights that are so critical to their business have become fewer.
Recently, producers joined climate experts and Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire to talk about the state's changing climate. And, how it is affecting one of the state's most important industries.
Some producers talked of seeing a steep drop in the amounts of sap they are getting. Others are dealing with another trend attributed to warmer temperatures. That is where the sap goes up to the top of the trees rather than down to taps. Others complained about a drop in the sugar content of their sap.
"When I purchased the farm in 2000, "I was getting 75 gallons of sap," said Ray LaRoche. He runs LaRoche Farm in Durham. "With the environmental changes we've been seeing, it's down to 15 gallons. That's a dramatic loss for us. And I don't know what to do about it."
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont produced 3.78 million gallons of syrup in 2016. That is according to a Northeast maple syrup production statistics service. The service is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Vermont is the clear leader. The state produced more than 47 percent of the country's maple syrup.
Sen. Hassan said the state's changing climate can have dramatic effects on the natural resources. Those resources "define us as a state and are critical to our economy, our environment. And our way of life in New Hampshire."
"Unfortunately, we are already seeing the real impacts of climate change on our economy - including on our maple syrup and ski industries," she said. Hassan was referring to warmer winters. That includes a decline in snow cover.
The ideal temperatures for sap production are in the 20s at night and 30s and 40s during the day. When the climate is in the 50s and 60s during the day and the nights stay warm, sap runs to the tops of the trees. It causes the tree to bloom. That can lead to a cloudy and off-tasting product.
But despite the challenges, some producers and experts at the University of New Hampshire say technological fixes are helping the industry adapt. And it can even extend the season.
"Climate change is man-made. And that's the good news," said Cameron Wake. The researcher leads a program at the University of New Hampshire that's investigating regional climate change. "Because if we caused the problem, we can fix the problem."
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why can't growers compensate for change in climate?
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