Increasing Maple Profitability Through Dropline and Spout Replacement
1. Project Goals: 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.
2. Current farm operation: Parker Family Maple Farm continues to be owned and operated by Earl Parker under the continued management of Michael Parker. The current farm operation has not changed greatly since the initial grant proposal, maintaining the same acreage,crops, and number of taps. Earl was inducted into the North American Maple Hall of Fame in Croghan, NY in 2011 and Michael continues to be active in the maple industry on the local and state levels. Kristina Parker-Wingler has joined Parker Family Maple Farm as office manager.
3. Cooperators & roles: Parker Family Maple Farm continues to work closely with Michael Farrell, the Northern NY Maple Specialist and Director of Cornell University’s Maple Research & Extension Field Station in Lake Placid. Mr. Farrell will ensure that the results of this research are distributed and shared as widely as possible. Kristina Parker-Wingler was introduced as project manager for the grant in 2011. Kristina will record data related to this research project and submit all necessary documents pertaining to the grant.
4. Actual work done on the project & remaining work: In 2011 data collection began with the 2011 maple season The sap from each designated sugarbush was collected in its own bulk tank. As it was pumped into the hauling truck for transport to the sugarhouse, it flowed through a totaling meter in order to keep track of the total volume of sap gathered from each sugarbush. The meters were purchased with this grant and intended for use with this project. We took 2 readings of the sugar content from each tank as it was being pumped into the truck. We made note of both readings and then took 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 was then 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 will be measured against the cost in materials and time needed to install and maintain whatever method is chosen at the conclusion of the project. Therefore, we will also kept 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.
Because of the time frame in which the grant was approved there was not adequate time to complete the GPS mapping and indexing of the tubing systems prior to the collection of the 2011 data. This portion of the project is now underway (February 2012). A tap count and record of the tubing system was established for the sugarbushes in order to understand the 2011 data.
Michael Parker and Michael Farrell have begun doing the outreach portion of the project by presenting the findings thus far at the NYS Maple Conference held in Verona, NY in January 2012. He will continue this outreach as opportunities arise.
5. Results & accomplishments to date: See attached charts and graphs for analysis of data collected to the point.
6. Site condition affecting results: The 2011 sap crop yield was very high with favorable weather conditions for the production of maple sap.
7. Economic findings: As this is an ongoing study the economic result cannot be accurately studied with only 1 year of data to analyze.
8. New ideas & remaining elements: The study is intended to be a multi-year project in order to collect accurate data for analysis. Continued mapping, data collection, data analysis, and outreach are all need before the goals of the project will have been accomplished and conclusions can be drawn.
Uihlein Maple Center
Bear Cub Lane
Lake Placid, NY 12946
Office Phone: 5185239337
Parker Family Maple Farm
1043 Slosson Rd
West Chazy, NY 12992
Office Phone: 5184936761