UNDERHILL CENTER, Vt.—Town Meeting Day in Vermont, this year March 3, has traditionally been the day sugarmakers get back in the woods to start tapping.
While that old adage is not as true as it once was, with most bigger operations tapping in January or February, many sugarmakers will be out drilling this week in Vermont and across the U.S. Maple Belt.
Meanwhile, industry experts from Vermont were on the pre-season meeting circuit this winter touting good tapping practices.
“Proper tapping is critical,” said Dr. Timothy Perkins, director of the Proctor Maple Research Center as part of the University of Vermont.
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UNDERHILL, Vt.—It is well recognized that microbial contamination of tubing systems can result in a substantial loss in sap yield if untreated.
Over a decade of research and maple industry experience has produced a range of possible strategies to address sanitation-related issues in 5/16” tubing systems (Perkins et. al. 2019).
Although rapidly adopted by many maple producers, due to the relatively short time period in which it has been in widespread use, there is far less understanding of sanitation in 3/16” tubing systems (Wilmot 2018).
To address this knowledge deficit, we conducted a multi-year study at the UVM Proctor Maple Research Center to examine sanitation-related losses in 3/16” tubing systems to determine which approach(es) might best mitigate sap losses due to sanitation. [ MORE ]
SHREWSBURY, Vt.—He are my 2019 observations on Calcium Hypochlorite bleach for cleaning 3/16” sap tubing at our sugarbush in Central Vermont.
After the 2018 season we cleaned our 3/16” tubing system with calcium hypochlorite bleach. This bleaching solution is made by adding 1 pound of “Zappit” Cal-Shock 65 to 200 gallons of water.
On 80 percent of the sugarbush we cleaned the system by pumping up air and the bleach solution through the laterals. Later we cleaned the drops by squirting bleach solution into the spouts using wash bottles.
These spouts were either replaced with new spouts or used bleached spouts for 2019.
(I found that it is possible to easily reuse a 3/16” fitting by boiling it and removing the bit of attached tubing with pliers. The fitting is not damaged by this treatment and is able to maintain high vacuum. We found no difference in performance between these used bleached spouts and brand new spouts.) [ MORE ]
HOBART, N.Y.—With the calendar turning to November, some sugarmakers are getting ready to start their season.
“We might do about 2500 next week,” said Ben Holscher of Roxbury Mountain Maple in the Catskills region of New York.
Last year the Holschers tapped November 15.
Their effort was not necessarily part of a “fall tapping” experiment, but rather to get a very early start on the 2018 sugaring season.
“We’ve been tapping earlier and earlier in January anyway,” said Ben Holscher, 28, one of eight siblings in the Holscher family. “So what’s it going to hurt going a month or so earlier than that? Might as well.”
“Yeah, it’s been weird,” said Dave Holscher, family patriarch, during a boil last Dec. 6. “We’ve had better sap weather the past three weeks then we did all last year during sugaring season.”
In their valley, November and early December gave them a long three week stretch of perfect freezing nights in the 20s and daytime highs in the 40s.
Trees were gushing.
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UNDERHILL CENTER, Vt.—Among the many things that are debated in the maple industry, the effects of spout color on sap yield seem to have as many opinions as there are colors in the rainbow.
Spouts from maple equipment manufacturers are now available in a wide range of colors. Often this selection of color is simply a tool for large-scale producers to keep track of different tappers by assigning them a color, but producers also want to know if spout color has any effect on sap yield.
There has not been a lot of recent research on the subject. Centre Acer conducted a study a few years ago, which concluded that white spouts produced 7% more sap than black spouts (as reported by CDL in their 2018 equipment catalog, page 10).
However, there is likely to be variation from one year to the next depending upon the weather regime experienced during each season. Other factors such as spout design, manufacture, and overall spout/tubing sanitation levels are also likely to slightly affect the results.
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Sap yields from 3/16” tubing on a slope compared to yields from 5/16” tubing are generally very good in the first year, particularly with gravity tubing, but also in many cases when using a pump—as described in two recent articles in The Maple News.
However, yields reported by many users begin to decline, usually by a moderate amount, after the first year. This is particularly true if the tubing is not cleaned at the end of the season.
In part, this is due to the nature of the tubing, which holds onto sap much more tightly than 5/16” tubing, generating natural vacuum in this manner; in some cases it also holds onto sap containing bacteria and yeasts. [ MORE ]
In addition to the advantages that 3/16” tubing provides in creating natural (gravity) vacuum on a slope, there is also an advantage that small diameter tubing can provide in some pumped systems. As is true with an all gravity system, the goal is to maximize vacuum at each taphole. Research has shown that an increase in vacuum at the taphole is accompanied by a steady increase in sap production—the relationship is about 5% more sap for every additional inch of mercury. In many pumped systems, because of friction loss and the capabilities of the pump itself, the vacuum at the taphole is less, sometimes much less, than the maximum that is possible at that elevation.
On a slope, the vacuum that can develop in 3/16” lines can increase what is achieved in the mainline by the pump, and this increase may boost production. The vacuum in the small lines is developed by the weight of the sap, while the vacuum in the mainline comes from the steady removal of air by the pump; together they form what I call a hybrid. This type of system is somewhat newer than the all gravity 3/16” system, and its design, for example the optimum number of taps per line, is less straightforward.
This article summarizes the research that I have conducted on 3/16” hybrid systems; unless otherwise noted, all of the results reported here are my own.
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The use of 3/16” tubing for sap collection began as a series of experiments that I conducted while working at the University of Vermont Proctor Maple Research Center.
The goal was to devise a gravity sap collection method that would improve production for sugarmakers with small operations who typically collected much less sap than producers using vacuum pumps.
Over the past 8 years I have continued to conduct research with this tubing in an effort to learn more about its potential uses and possible shortcomings, both for gravity and pumped sap collection.
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