2016 Vermont Maple Bulletin: Week of Feb 1st-7th.
Introducing the University of Vermont Extension, Vermont Maple Bulletin. This will be a weekly recap of the sap flow and syrup production across the state of Vermont as well as a look ahead at the week to come. The Bulletin is meant not an exhaustive analysis or planning tool but rather a general summary of the maple season across the state. Hopefully, the information will help identify broad trends as the season progresses. Issues such as unusual sap sugar content or abundance of sugar sand or incidences of metabolism will also be included when appropriate.
To date, the winter of 2015-16 in Vermont could best be defined by its mild temperatures and lack of significant snowfall. These qualities have made repairing damage or installing new tubing much easier for producers. Tapping is also reported to be going smoothly compared to years with deep snow. Unseasonably warm temperatures have allowed for sap collection across the entire state. In most years, producers in the southern portion of the state begin producing syrup before their northern counterparts. That geographic arrangement seems much less defined in 2016.
Producers statewide appear to fall into two broad categories when it comes to starting the 2016 season: “Get while the getting is good” and “wait and see”. Producers that have enough of their woods tapped to collect significant sap report sap sweetness to be about as expected (ranging from 1.4-1.9) in most cases. Good flavored syrup has been produced with color ranging from Golden to Dark. The wide range in color is most likely due to variations in microclimate and sap collection/storage practices between operations. One large producer in northwestern Vermont reports reaching nearly 10% of a crop after only three boils. Another large producer is closer to 15% of a good crop as of Friday.
Those producers who have taken a “wait and see” approach are banking on more typical February weather (cold) returning for the next week or two. One producer reports trying to avoid collecting only enough sap to sweeten the evaporator and then shut down for an extended period. The largest reported reason for waiting is a desire to prevent reduced production in the middle to late part of the season as a result of older tapholes beginning to clog with the growth of microorganisms.
Looking ahead for next week it appears that the warm temperatures that allowed widespread early sap flow will disappear. Producers in the south expect temperatures to remain above historical averages with the possibility sap flow depending on location. In general temperatures for expected to go above freezing but remain below those needed for good flow. The northern part of the state has a similar forecast with perhaps less of a change for even modest sap flow.
Stay tuned for next week’s Bulletin