Increasing Maple Profitability Through Dropline and Spout Replacement

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2011: $6,920.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Michael Parker
Parker Family Maple Farm

Annual Reports


  • Miscellaneous: syrup


  • Crop Production: agroforestry
  • Education and Training: extension
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Sustainable Communities: employment opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    Our project will attempt to address the benefits/costs of utilizing several different strategies for maintaining sap yields in a maple tubing system over time. Several new spouts have been invented
    over the past few years and many people are now experimenting with replacing tubing system components and using new/different types of spouts. Despite some research by the University of Vermont, Cornell University, and Centre Acer on the optimum spout/tubing replacement strategy, there is no conclusive evidence on what combination will produce the greatest return on investment. Furthermore, all of the research has been done in controlled experiments on a small and limited scale.

    Our project would be the first and only scientifically valid testing of many different strategies
    on a commercial scale by a private maple producer. Maple producers often look to other maple producers to see what works for them before adopting a new technology or idea. Therefore, we will test out several of the most current “best strategies” for improving sap yield through spout selection and dropline replacement, report on our findings and share them extensively with other producers.
    This will allow maple producers to avoid making costly mistakes while simultaneously increasing yield and profits for all who adopt the best technologies.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Parker Family Maple Farm has 8 distinct sugarbushes within a mile radius that it gathers sap from. The table below contains information on the number of taps, tubing system age, and the tubing/spout strategy that was used in 2010 and will be used in 2011 and 2012.

    See attached table fore details.

    The results from 2011 will help provide some insight on the differences one can expect from various tubing/spout strategies. However, by tweaking some of the systems for the 2012 sap season,
    it will become even more evident what the effect of tubing replacement and/or spout selection has on yield. During the summer/fall of 2011, staff at Parker Family Maple Farm will map and
    inventory all of the tubing systems. We will first create laminated cards to be hung from the beginning of each section of mainline. The identifying tags will be based on a letter/number system
    in order to keep track of all the different mainline tubing sections in a particular sugarbush. We will then walk along all of the mainlines, making note of the number of taps for each of the lateral lines and the number of taps on each tree for that lateral line. This is necessary to determine the total
    number of taps in each sugarbush as well as the average number of taps per lateral line and the average number of taps/tree, two variables that can both greatly influence sap yield. It would not be
    possible to produce scientifically defensible results without first gathering and disclosing this information.

    The sap from each sugarbush is collected in its own bulk tank. As it is pumped into the hauling truck for transport to the sugarhouse, it will flow through a totaling meter in order to keep track of the total volume of sap gathered from each sugarbush. We will also take 2 readings of the sugar content from each tank as it is being pumped into the truck. We will make note of both readings and then take the average when we are analyzing the results. This is important to do in order to keep track of the total sap sugar production from each tubing system. It is possible that some systems could extract a great deal more sap, but that the sap would be lower in sugar content than tubing systems that did not collect as much sap. The total sap volume and sugar concentration will then be transformed into its equivalent syrup production according to the Rule of 86, as seen below

    86 / Sap Sugar Concentration = Gallons of sap required to produce 1 gallon of syrup

    We will also record the vacuum level, as shown on the vacuum gauge at the sap extractor, every time we are loading the sap. This will alert us to any possible vacuum leaks in the sugarbush that need to be fixed while providing some additional information as to why a certain sugarbush provided more (or less) sap than another. We generally maintain vacuum levels of 24-25” of Hg at the pump, and if the vacuum level dips below this, we then go into the sugarbush to find and fix the leaks. The amount of sap collected based on a change in spout and/or dropline should also be measured against the cost in materials and time needed to install and maintain whatever method is chosen. Therefore, we will also keep detailed records for the price we paid and time spent installing and maintaining spouts and/or droplines in each sugarbush.

    Based on a labor rate of $10/hr and current retail price for the materials, the total costs for each strategy will be analyzed. These figures will be compared to the additional revenue based on the current average bulk price of maple syrup to come up with a benefit/cost ratio for each strategy.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.