Sweet Changes: New Research And Methods Keep Maple Syrup Flowing

You may be one of those people who refuses to pour anything but real maple syrup onto your pancakes, or perhaps you enjoy Grade B maple syrup for its health benefits. If so, you'll be happy to know that researchers and maple-sugar farm operators are using a combination of bold new ideas and high-tech efficiency to ensure a steady supply of syrup well into the future.

Maple syrup remains the same sweet treasure it always has been, but the following developments may make it easier than ever to keep that sticky goodness flowing:

Hi-tech monitoring and the vacuum tube.

The low-tech style of tapping maple trees involves gravity. You basically poke a hole in the tree, put a bucket under the hole, and wait for the gooey sap to drip into the bucket. This means hours of hiking through the woods checking taps and collecting sap. Insects and debris can contaminate open buckets.

The hi-tech way to tap trees involves connecting each of the trees' taps to central pipelines that deliver the sap via vacuum tubes to a central container. This eliminates contamination of the sap as well as the need to constantly check the levels in the buckets.

But monitoring the tubing systems has been made easier with apps that tell maple syrup producers what's going on with their sap-collection systems. Operators still have to go out and inspect lines, repair leaks, and change out parts, but they now have extra eyes out among the maples.

Tapping unused potential.

On a maple sugar farm, called a sugar bush, the operator must pay close attention to the health of the trees. Normally, young saplings are cut down so that they won't steal nutrients and water from the grown trees. Only trees that are around 1 ft. in diameter are tapped for their sap.

But a new technique involves topping off much smaller saplings and using a vacuum extractor to get sap from them. It's proven to be very effective, and the trees will go on to recover and grow without harm. If the technique can be repeated with a large number of maple saplings, farmers could begin harvesting sap much earlier and much easier than with full grown trees.

The tapping device must be perfected, but once that happens, more people may start making maple syrup, and that's good for you.

If you haven't bought maple syrup in a while, you should know that the USDA has changed the grading system for maple syrup. Despite this change, and the changes above, maple syrup will always be the same high-quality product you enjoy.