Thursday, April 9, 2009

End of maple syrup?

TreeHugger reports the possible end of Maple Syrup.
Having lived in the northeastern U.S. for some time before moving to Quebec, certainly some of the best things in these parts include colourful fall foliage and tons of locally-harvested maple syrup. Sadly, thanks to increasingly ‘weird’ and warming weather, the long-standing tradition and $65 million business of “maple sugaring” in the northeastern U.S. is in danger of becoming a historical footnote.

It’s because the cycles of what is called ‘cold recharge’ – where weeks of below-freezing temperatures, followed by warmer temperatures – are shortening to the point where sugar maples are not producing the sap which is later boiled down to make maple syrup.

It this recharge cycle which allows the sap in sugar maples’ limbs to turn to ice, creating an area of lower pressure which in turn pulls up more sap into the frozen areas from the roots up. In this state, the trees convert their stored starches into sucrose that will fuel spring budding. As the warming weather melts the sap ice, liquid sap is pushed in all directions. All one has to do is drill a hole for the sap to flow.

But for some places in the Northeast, the sugar-tapping season is either getting shorter and shorter, sometimes lasting only a week, as it did in Quebec last year.

"This is a weather-related industry," says Sam Cutting, owner of Dakin Farm in Vermont and who has been in the sugar business for 40 years. "There are always problems in the maple industry: gypsy moths, floods, droughts."

Read more here

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