Sweet future tapped for NZ maple syrup test
New Zealand’s potential as a maple syrup or birch syrup producer is being tested by researchers at the University of Canterbury (UC). A trial plantation has been established near Hanmer Springs, with more planned for Canterbury, Waikato and Rangitīkei. The UC team is also seeking to identify native tree extracts that could have uses in food or rongoā (medicine).
Closely spaced, row-crop style test plantation of sugar maple saplings near Hanmer Springs.
“We planted our first maple saplings near Hanmer Springs last autumn and will coppice prune them to keep them small,” says Professor Watson, who is also the Director of UC’s Biomolecular Interaction Centre (BIC). “We’re now working with other landowners to establish additional small-scale plantations, each with around 100 trees.”
Instruments will monitor factors such as sap flow and local weather conditions. “We hope to extract a small quantity of sap this winter that will give us a measure of sugar concentration.”
While commercial production is a long way off, it is projected that 2000 hectares of maple trees could generate $60 million a year in maple syrup revenue. By absorbing carbon dioxide, maples would also benefit the environment and could be planted beside waterways as a riparian buffer.
3D imaging will be carried out at the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne on live sugar maples to help the researchers better understand sap production mechanisms through freeze-thaw cycles.