NMSU Joins Efforts to Grow Maple Industry in Western United States

LAS CRUCES — A professor at New Mexico State University is part of a research collaboration that received a $500,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to develop an industry of maple in the western interior region of the country.

Rolston St. Hilaire, NMSU Regents Professor and Head of the Departments of Plant and Environmental Science and Extension Plant Science in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, is the project’s co-principal investigator.

The project, a collaboration with Utah State University, aims to develop a maple syrup industry in an area of ​​eight western states, including New Mexico, Montana and Utah. , through targeted research and extension activities, St. Hilaire said. The project team includes faculty and extension staff from USU and NMSU; The Forest Farmers, LLC, a maple syrup industry consulting firm in New York; Montana MapleWorks, a maple syrup company in Missoula, Montana; and the Stokes Nature Center in Logan, Utah.

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“The overall goal is to mine maple trees in New Mexico, Montana and Utah to determine the conditions that will be needed to produce quality syrup,” St. Hilaire said.

Maple syrup is usually made by boiling the sap from sugar maple trees. But other maples also produce syrup, St. Hilaire said, noting that bigtooth maples, boxelders and Rocky Mountain maples are native to New Mexico, Montana and Utah. All three states also have non-native maple trees planted in urban areas.

St. Hilaire said the project team will work to determine the tapping potential of maple trees in the Intermountain West region for syrup production, using traditional gravity bucket and tube collection systems. The team will also work to educate hobby growers and landowners on tapping techniques and maple syrup production processes.

St. Hilaire said there is a need to create alternative areas to produce maple syrup to support maple syrup production, as climate change is likely to impact maple producing areas. in Canada and the northeastern United States.

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“This new partnership will allow NMSU to help lay the foundation for developing the food value of maple trees grown in the Western Interior,” he said.

As part of the project, NMSU and USU extension staff, with support from the Stokes Nature Center, will hold maple tapping demonstrations this year, showcasing traditional and modern methods of tapping maple trees. . The first demonstration took place on January 15 in Santa Fe.

“There is a real opportunity for producing maple products in the West that are truly unique,” ​​said Patrick Kelly, director of education at the Stokes Nature Center. “It was great for our team from Utah to come and teach in New Mexico and see how enthusiastic people are about maple tapping here. I’m sure I’ll be purchasing a Green Chili Maple Syrup sourced entirely from New Mexico in the very near future.

The team also hopes to recruit New Mexico landowners to participate in the project by allowing researchers to conduct maple tapping experiments on their land. Landowners interested in participating should contact St. Hilaire at [email protected] or 575-646-5280.

“Eye on Research” is provided by New Mexico State University. This week’s article was written by Carlos Andres López of Marketing and Communications. He can be reached at 575-646-1955 or [email protected]

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