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The Boston Globe

Metro

A jolt for the science behind harvesting maple sap

Scientists find way to harvest without taps or buckets or, even, what you’d call trees

UNDERHILL, Vt. — Scientists at a research lab deep in the maple woods of northern Vermont have made a discovery that could revolutionize New England’s most tradition-steeped form of agriculture. But their work may also threaten a cherished way of life.

Experiments at the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center show that maple sap — the raw material that sugar makers boil into syrup — can be efficiently vacuumed from the decapitated trunks of saplings, sharply increasing syrup production. That’s a radical departure from the centuries-old practice of inserting a small tap a few feet above the base of a mature tree, relying on the force of gravity and internal pressure to draw off the sap.

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