UW scientists tap into potential for maple syrup industry in Washington

Farmers and the University of Washington scientists are tapping into the potential for a maple syrup industry in Western Washington.

UW Associate Professor Indroneil Ganguly and his team started a pilot program last year and produced maple syrup from bigleaf maple trees at one of its experimental forests. The project has now expanded to six additional sites.

"I think I’m pretty confident we can have a commercially viable maple syrup industry. How big it is, that’s a question we are trying to answer," said Ganguly.

Sap flow season runs from late November to mid-February and researchers found that winter weather conditions played a big role in sap flow.

"We need to have a freeze, thaw cycle. So it has to go down to freezing few days and then when it warms up and the trees thaw, there’s enough pressure inside the tree and then the sap starts flowing," said Ganguly.

Neil’s Bigleaf Maple Syrup located in Acme was the first to commercialize maple syrup in the Western United States. Retail price for a gallon is 500 dollars.

"You have a hundred year plus tree that you don’t have to cut it down and every single year it returns an investment with very minimal impact on the planet, so that is where the excitement is coming from," said Devin Day with Neil’s Bigleaf Maple Syrup.

Bigleaf maples are abundant in areas bordering streams known as riparian zones and researchers are excited the native trees can not only play an environmental role, but an economic one too.

"We are not changing the ecosystem in any way. We are enjoying our ecosystem and in the end it could be commercially viable or just something grandkids do with their grandparents," said Ganguly.

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