Study examines how maple trees fare tapping

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copyright the Chronicle June 14, 2017


by Tena Starr


The Proctor Maple Research Center in Underhill has launched a first-of-its kind study. It’s looking at the long-term effects of tapping a maple tree.

Like others, Derby sugarmaker Steve Wheeler said he was astonished that concrete information about how drilling holes into a tree and sucking its sap out year after year hasn’t previously been collected.

Mr. Wheeler, who is an organic sugarmaker, said he was among those who called for the study. Organic sugarmakers as well as those whose land is in the Current Use program, are required to follow best practices for sugaring. Among other things, they want scientific, rather than anecdotal, data to support those best practices, Mr. Wheeler said.

“I’m one of the guys who has said, hey, we really need this study. The whole thing about organic is it’s about the long-term sustainability of the sugarbush.”

Research assistant professor Abby van den Berg at the Proctor Center said the study will last ten years. The goal is to collect empirical data on what effect tapping and collecting sap has on the health and growth of maples.

The fact that no one has ever studied that rather big subject is, in part, because “we have been doing this for a hundred plus years over and over again, and the trees are still healthy and thriving,” said Ms. van den Berg about sugaring. “That, anecdotally, gives us the answer to that question. We know we are not detrimentally impacting trees when we’re following good practices.”

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