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Climate change could affect Wisconsin maple syrup industry

CREDIT: WQOW

CADOTT, WI (WQOW) -- Ecologists are saying that the effects of global warming could take a toll on a number of Wisconsin industries like cranberries, walleye and even maple syrup.

Roth's Sugar Bush has been producing maple syrup since the 1950's, and owner Pete Roth said he's seen many things change in the family business over the decades, including rising temperatures.

"It makes you start earlier," said Roth. "Traditionally, we start at the 20th to 23rd of March, and we're two weeks ahead of that now."

Roth said for sap to flow, there need to be freezing nights and mildly warm temperatures during the day.

"If it stays warm all the time, say 55 during the day and 35 at night, the sap's going to quit running, the trees are going to bud, and spring's going to come."

So as spring has the potential to come sooner each year, it could make that window of harvest shorter.

"Climate change will affect production," Roth added. "In 25 years, we could be making syrup in February."

According to the USDA, rising temperatures not only affect sap flow, but also the ability for certain trees to thrive in Wisconsin such as the hard maple (also known as sugar maple) used by Roth's Sugar Bush and many other maple syrup companies, which can be a cause of concern in of itself for the $7 billion industry.

However, Roth takes the potential challenges in stride.

"The maple industry is expanding every year, 8 to 10 percent growth every year," he said. "They're finding all kinds of uses, too, with maple syrup. So we're real optimistic about the industry."

Nevertheless, he said he's already seen effects of the state's changing climate, and is prepared to make adjustments.

"If it's five degrees too cold or five degrees too warm and doesn't freeze that night, that changes the whole program," said Roth.

Roth added that even without taking into account climate change, each year's harvest time can vary.

He said he's produced as early as January and as late as May. It's just the amount of time sap flows that can be concerning.

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