Feb 23, 2017

Extreme weather threatens maple syrup industry in Michigan

UP Matters

Extreme weather is having a negative impact on the Michigan maple syrup industry, the fifth largest in the country.

“The extreme weather we are experiencing here in Michigan puts a lot of stress on the maple syrup industry,” said Kirk Hedding, President of the Michigan Maple Syrup Association. “The extreme weather leads to lower yields and opens the door to new invasive species and disease. If this trend continues, it could have a severe impact on the industry as a whole, which will in turn impact the economy and tourism in Michigan.”

The Associated Press reported this week on the impact of climate variability on maple syrup production in the Northwest region of the United States. According to the article, warmer weather in recent years has affected the production of sap and the sweetness of sap – both crucial aspects in ensuring the success of the maple syrup industry. In Michigan, the warm winter this year has the potential of being extremely harmful to the local maple syrup industry.

“If the warm weather trend continues, it could be bad for maple syrup production,” said Dan Tassier, Board Member of the Commercial Maple Syrup Producers of Michigan.

Tassier has only tapped his trees in February twice in his life – this year being one of them. Although an early tapping season isn’t quite yet cause for concern, the continued warm weather is. The warmer weather could also be a cause for the lower sugar content experienced by farmers this year, Tassier said.

“So far, the sugar content this year has been really low. When I asked around, the general consensus of fellow farmers is the same. When it stays warm too many nights in a row, the buds on the tree will swell. Once they swell, the sap will turn bitter and the season is done,” Tassier said.

The lower sugar content means it will take a lot more sap to make one gallon of syrup. According to the Michigan Maple Syrup Association, the average amount of sap it takes to make one gallon of syrup in Michigan would be about 40 gallons. This year, Tassier reported that the low sugar content resulted in some farmers needing 85 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup – more than twice the normal amount.