Warmer winter impacting Wisconsin maple syrup producers

Ag Report

MADISON, Wis. (WISC) — Wisconsin’s changing climate is creating an uncertain future for many of the state’s profitable industries.

“It affects everything in our natural world,” said David Stevens, a maple syrup producer and curator of wooden plants at the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Arboretum.

Stevens said he is concerned that the future of the maple syrup industry in Wisconsin is at the mercy of climate change.

“Earlier warm ups and bud breaks are going to shorten the season, and that’s what we are very scared about,” Stevens said.

Maple syrup brings in about $7 million annually to our state.

Stevens said a good maple syrup season relies on freezing nights and sunny, above freezing days. If the temperatures get too warm at night, the sap won’t run. Because the temperatures and environmental conditions need to be just right, maple syrup season only lasts a few weeks.

Stevens said he already sees the impacts of climate change. Maple syrup season is starting earlier because spring-like temperatures are starting earlier.

“If we do continue to see these trends of warmer temperatures it will shorten the window of sap flow,” he said.

A shorter maple syrup season means producers can’t make as much maple syrup. Because of the decrease in production, prices will increase and producers likely won’t make enough to sustain themselves financially.

“You’re going to see more people drop out of the industry. It’s just not going to be worth it to them,” Stevens said.

Maple syrup isn’t the only industry that is impacted from climate change in Wisconsin. Reports have shown that cranberries will also suffer with the projected increase in precipitation. As Wisconsin starts to see several more inches of precipitation fall over the next decade, cranberries will rot quicker and the entire crop could get wiped out under certain extreme conditions.

Additionally, certain fish are likely to migrate elsewhere because the lake temperatures are becoming too warm for them to live in.

“The identity of our state has largely been affected by climate change and will continue to do so,” said Michael Notaro, an associate scientist and associate director at the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Center for Climatic Research.

Notaro says Wisconsin winter temperatures have already increased about three degrees since the 80s and are projected to increase another six degrees or so in the next 50 years.

“By the end of the century, when we have a much shorter winter season, when we don’t have frozen lakes, that is going to change our understanding of what is Wisconsin,” Notaro said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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