Feasibility of producing maple syrup in New Zealand
Maple syrup is strongly associated with North America in the same way that wine was once associated with France. Parts of New Zealand (NZ) have growing conditions suitable for maple trees to grow and exude sap to be used for the production of maple syrup. While traditional production requires mature trees, recent research in the United States suggests that densely planted saplings can produce far more maple sap per hectare than mature trees. In addition, the proposed system allows reduced land and material usage and a much faster start up time than existing practices using mature maple trees. Densely planted saplings, the so-called plantation method, allows maple saplings to be produced as a row crop, where harvesting in late winter occurs at a unique time compared to other NZ crops allowing for earlier mobilization of the seasonal workforce that typically works on vineyards and fruit crops. In this paper, we describe intensified maple sap harvesting using a specialized extraction system and the plantation method. We estimate, based on a preliminary design and economic analysis, that the economics of producing sap and processing it into maple syrup are favourable beyond the scale of approximately 10 ha. Furthermore, we demonstrate how deep freeze-thaw cycles are not required to produce a crop of sap from small diameter saplings. Climate, soil and geographical information systems databases were used to develop a figure of merit analysis to compare environmental growth factors and identify regions of the South Island of New Zealand where maple saplings can potentially grow and produce sap for commercial syrup production.