Climate change affects maple syrup producers Parker's Maple Barn employee Kyle Gay pours maple tree sap into a larger bucket, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in Brookline, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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, as winters become warmer and frigid nights so critical to their business become fewer.
 
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, while others are dealing with another trend attributed to warmer temperatures in which 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 of 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, according to a Northeast maple syrup production statistics service run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Vermont is the clear leader, alone producing more than 47 percent of the country's maple syrup.
 
Hassan said the state's changing climate can have dramatic effects on the natural resources that "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, referring to warmer winters and 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 not down to the taps, but to the tops of the trees, causing the tree to bloom. That can lead to a cloudy and off-tasting product.
 
"The other day we had a nice 50-degree day which is kind of the new normal but still not normal," said Jeff Moore of Windswept farm. "One of the challenges we've had to start weighing is when do we actually tap because putting a tap into a tree is a wound, the trees naturally act to try to compartmentalize that wound and wall it off."
 
The longer the tap has been exposed to the environment, the sooner the tree is going to wall it off, Moore said.
 
"When I was growing up," he added, "you didn't want to tap too early, because if you tapped too early you'd miss all of the good weather at the end of the season, when most of your sap is running. So that gets a little more challenging now."
 
But despite the challenges, some producers and experts at the University of New Hampshire say technological fixes are helping the industry adapt - and even extend the season.
 
"Climate change is man-made, and that's the good news," said Cameron Wake, who leads a research program at the University of New Hampshire that's investigating regional climate change. "Because if we caused the problem, we can fix the problem."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why can't growers compensate for change in climate?
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COMMENTS (6)
  • irisp-ste
    3/13/2017 - 08:56 a.m.

    Maple syrup is not something I considered in regards to climate change. It is very sad to hear that the amount of syrup being produced has dropped by so many gallons due to the climate controlling so much in the environment. Hopefully technology will be able to aid adjust to these changes to keep the syrup flowing.

  • kaileew-ste
    3/23/2017 - 01:29 p.m.

    Maple syrup is one of New Hampshire's most important industries. Due to climate changes, the amount of syrup has gone from 75 gallons to 15. The right temperature for sap production is in the 20's to 40's.

  • noahr-ste
    3/24/2017 - 12:55 p.m.

    It sucks to see that the maple syrup production is so low when the temperature and weather gets worse. We need that syrup!!!

  • derrickc-pay
    3/27/2017 - 09:40 a.m.

    Maple syrup is one of New Hampshire's most important industries. According to the article,the climate changes affects the amount of syrup produced. To put this in perspective, what used to be 75 gallons of maple syrup is now 15.

  • nicholasb-pay
    3/27/2017 - 09:50 a.m.

    Growers can't compensate for climate change because maple syrup has dropped by many gallons. It is difficult for them to grow and produce maple syrup because of climate change such as cold weather in New Hampshire.

  • LauraB-chu
    3/31/2017 - 11:35 a.m.

    The growers cannot compensate for the change in climate because the trees are not producing enough sap. They cannot just plant more trees to get sap because there isn't enough space and the trees will not mature fast enough.

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