Warm Winters Mean Bad Maple Syrup Harvests

Image courtesy of amanjo

If you live in the northeastern United States, you’ve probably noticed that temperatures are warmer than usual for this time of year. While that’s great news for most people, it’s terrible news for maple syrup producers, who are coping with low sap production and cloudy syrup.

While most of the world’s syrup comes from Canada, cold-weather, maple-intensive states in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania also produce their own syrup. This winter, that production is way down. Yesterday, syrup producers met with New Hampshire senator Maggie Hassan to discuss their situation, and the Associated Press was there.

One farmer described how he would normally extract 75 gallons of sap from his trees, and production is down to 15 gallons now. Depending on the sugar content, it takes at least 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, and the unusually warm weather has also affected the sugar content of the little sap that farmers are able to get.

If you’ve ever wondered, prime sap-running weather is below freezing at night, but above freezing through the mid-forties during the day. Instead, temperatures have been in the fifties during the day, and often don’t dip below freezing at night. Instead of running down to the taps, sap heads to the tops of trees and causes them to sprout leaves early.

When a state’s agriculture and tourism depend on its weather, temporary or permanent changes in the weather can have far-reaching effects.

“Unfortunately, we are already seeing the real impacts of climate change on our economy — including on our maple syrup and ski industries,” Sen. Hassan said during an event with farmers and climate experts.

The scientists were hopeful, though: They noted that technological innovations can help producers to extract sap even when the weather isn’t quite favorable.