Maple Syrup Farmers Can Now Vacuum Sap Out of Trees

A new technology helps sugarmakers get every last drop

maple syrup
Tim Robbins/Mint Images/Corbis

With the weirdly cold spring changing normal production schedules, maple syrup producers have had a rough season. But they have a new advantage, too. Instead of relying on buckets attached to trees to collect the maple sap, maple farms have shifted to a more high-tech method—vacuuming sap straight out of the trees.

National Geographic reports:

Many farmers have started using a vacuum pressure tubing system that sucks sap out of the trees, rather than the traditional method of hanging a galvanized bucket on a tap and waiting for the tree to give it up.

The tubing links the trees together and runs to the sugar house, where the sap is collected and heated in large vats over a fire until it turns into syrup. No more horse-drawn sleighs through the woods to dump small buckets of sap into larger ones. Each tree yields more total sap per year with the new technology, without apparent harm to the tree or changing the flavor of the syrup.

Considering it takes about 43 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup, most farmers find the system a significant improvement.

Rsearchers at the University of Vermont have found a way to improve this system even more. Professors looking into improving the existing vacuum systems stumbled onto a revolutionary discovery. By cutting the tops off maple saplings, they were able to draw massive amounts of sap out of the young trees.

From the University of Vermont: 

“We got to the point where we should have exhausted any water that was in the tree, but the moisture didn’t drop,” says Perkins. “The only explanation was that we were pulling water out of the ground, right up through and out the stem.” In other words, the cut tree works like a sugar-filled straw stuck in the ground. To get the maple sugar stored in the trunk, just apply suction.

Using the new method, the researchers estimate that maple syrup producers could multiply their production from 40 gallons of syrup per acre to over 400 gallons per acre.

So is the maple syrup market about to be flooded in sticky sweet goodness? Not quite yet, reports Gizmodo. The new method, while proven in the lab, will take time to be patented and scaled up to real world production capacity. 

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