NZ Locations for Maple Syrup Production

July 29, 2022

Locations in New Zealand were assessed for the commercial production of maple syrup from a plantation of maple saplings. The research ranked various factors deemed valuable for the successful growth of maple saplings (i.e. temperature, soil properties, climate, and light intensity) as gathered from international literature and existing maple syrup industries. The first underlying assumptions is that good maple tree growth corresponds to a high maple sap yield.

The second underlying assumption is that a freeze-thaw cycle is an essential part of sap production processes. While this cycle is part of the traditional maple sap collection process, sap exudation has been shown to occur at temperatures around 3°C. This indicated that fluctuations around temperatures close to 0°C are sufficient for sap flow to occur. It is important to note that New Zealand would have a different sugaring season than that of the Northern Hemisphere; it was assumed that maple sap collection would take place from June to August in New Zealand.

Analysis was based on seven environmental factors:

  1. minimum daily temperature
  2. maximum daily temperature
  3. annual rainfall
  4. sunshine hours
  5. soil moisture
  6. soil temperatures
  7. soil type

A total figure of merit score was calculated by summing the figure of merit scores (0-4) of each of the seven environmental factors for each location.

Map of New Zealand showing potential plantation sites for sugar maple saplings. The highest figure of merit numbers correspond to the best locations for maple growth.

The figure of merit analysis was only a starting point to evaluate regions that look promising for the production of maple syrup from a plantation of maple saplings. It was based on freely available data that was interpolated to cover New Zealand.  It was assumed that each of the seven factors analysed had an equal weight, but this might not be accurate. Our current research is exploring how the factors affect the growth of maple trees and sap yield. Analysis of tree growth data, sap yields, biotic, and abiotic data will assist in developing a model to predict tree growth, and sap yield under New Zealand conditions.

This blog post summarises data and finding reported in a 2018 conference paper.

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