March 23rd-March 29th

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One of many: Across Vermont, producers saw one or two large sap runs over the past week.

A solid run of sap was collected by many producers in Vermont Tuesday-Wednesday (3/22-3/23).  While there have been plenty of reports of overall lower than average sap sweetness, others have seen sap remain in typical ranges.  Like so many things in the world of maple production the answer will have to wait until the end of the season.  There have been some reports of niter appearing in larger quantities and/or different consistencies this week.  Sap ran extremely hard for many producers over the weekend as well (3/27-3/28).  Reports of record rates of sap flow had many producers boiling late and producing a lot of syrup in a short period of time.

In Bennington county, the report is that sap continues to be collected from some operations, especially those with trees at higher elevations.  One operation had strong runs Monday through Wednesday (3/21-23) while others saw ‘strong runs throughout the week’.  Sap flow tapered off a bit on Saturday (3/26) following a freeze the night before.  Some light colored syrup with a ‘butterscotch taste’ was produced Friday night (3/25).  The sense in this part of Vermont is that the crop will end up being average to above average (even for those who did not collect the early run around February 1st).

In Washington county. one operation reports reaching 2.75 pounds of syrup/tap.  The syrup being produced has been Amber and Dark (no Golden) with ‘first of the season, creamy taste’.  Producers are optimistic about plenty more production to come.

In Addison county, a producer in an especially cold area reports that sap flow was average to very good during the last week.  Sap sweetness has averaged 1.83 ⁰brix over this time. Syrup grade has been consistently Amber with no off flavors reported.  Total season syrup yield has now reached 2.94 pounds/tap at this location.  Sugar sand appeared along with a great run of sap on Friday (3/25).  Sunday’s big run (3/27) also featured a ‘good amount of sugar sand’.

In Chittenden county, one operation in Underhill reports strong sap flow, especially over the weekend (3/25-3/27).  Sap sweetness has ranged at this location between 1.6-2.0% over this time.  Only good flavored syrup has been produced so far.  The niter produced has taken on a pasty consistency which has made filtering difficult.  Total syrup yield has reached 4.9 pounds/tap at this location.  Another operation reports strong flows and relatively sweet sap (~2.0%) over the past week.  Total season syrup production has reached 0.495 pounds/tap.

In Lamoille county, one producer had very good runs of sap Wednesday (3/23) as well as Friday straight through the weekend (3/25-27).  Sap sweetness has been between 1.7-1.8% during this period.  Syrup grade had been Dark with a strong (but not bad) flavor earlier in the week and has steadily improved to the point of being ‘amazing’ to this producer.  Syrup color has almost reached Amber with ‘super flavor’.  Total season syrup yield has reached 3.65 pounds/tap at this location.  Another Lamoille county producer very good sap flow (especially over the weekend.  Sap sweetness has averaged 2.1% and syrup grade Amber (with no off flavors) was produced during this period.  Total season syrup yield at this location has reached 4.0 pounds/tap.  Another operation (in a generally cold location) reports that sap flow was below average for most of the week and above average from Sunday to Monday (3/27-3/28).  Sap sweetness has averaged 2.0% or better.  Syrup grade produced has been all Golden with no off flavors reported.  This location has seen ‘lots’ of niter and it is impacting syrup filtering capacity of the press (lowered by ~50% at one point).  Total syrup production has reached a yield of 3.1 pounds/tap at this location.

One Orleans county producer reports very good sap flow over the past week.  Sap sweetness was 2.2% and Golden syrup was being produced.  This operation uses steam evaporation and so generally makes light colored syrup.  Total syrup yield at this operation has reached 2.24 pounds/tap.  The prediction from this operation is for a big crop (if things continue ‘as is’).  Another operation (this one in a historically cold location) reports experiencing temperatures too cold for sap flow and 4-6” of snow.  Temperatures warmed enough later on Saturday (3/26) for sap to flow.  Sunday morning brought the start of big run that was continuing into Monday (3/28).  Sap sweetness rose to 2.4% and was clear following the sustained cold period.  Nice flavored Golden syrup was being produced most recently at this location.  Total season syrup yield has reached 2.9 pounds/tap at this location.

From Caledonia county, one operation reports little to no flow from until Saturday (3/26).  When it did open up the sap ran hard.  Sunday (3/27) had sap flow rates just under 4 gallons/tap/24 hours.  The sap sugar content was 2.4%.  Warm sap temperatures made for easier (and higher) concentration with the RO.  The higher elevation trees at this location ‘finally started running’ during this period.   Syrup grade changed from Amber to Golden with no off flavors reported.  Total season yield has reached 2.9 pounds of syrup/tap.

Looking ahead, the forecast includes a period of moderating temperatures for the middle to end of the week.  A bit further out it appears that more freezing weather is coming.

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March 16th-March 22nd

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At this stage of the season many sugar makers will be looking to the crowns of trees for clues about how much longer the season will last.Red maple (Acer rubrum) flower buds showing no visual sign of breaking in Underhill Center on Monday (3/21).

The past week has included some warm temperatures and some cold temperatures.  Unfortunately for sugar makers (especially in colder or more northern areas) those temperatures have not come in the ideal pattern that produces great amounts of sap flow.  The week ahead could be much better for operations where a larger swing across the freezing mark happens daily instead of every few days.  Others will likely see limited flow given that when temperatures do warm up, it will be for only a limited time in the afternoons.  The hope for many producers that are nearing the end of the season is that cooler temperatures and cloudy skies will keep trees exit from winter dormancy in check for at least a week or more.

Bennington county reports there are still operations in action.  The sense is that production in the valleys has come to an end even without reports of buddy syrup being produced.  Producers relatively higher in elevation report strong runs.  The operation that has been reporting all season had freezes on Friday-Sunday (3/18-3/20).  This producer collected sap that tested at 1.5-1.8%.  Most operations are nearing a full crop or thereabouts.  Syrup grade is reported to be Dark with good taste and no off flavor.

The season continues in Windham county as well.  One operation, whose sugarbush is around 1800’, reports sap continues to flow.  The most recent sap sweetness has been about 1.7 for this operation.  Syrup produced at this location has been Very Dark or Dark with no off flavors and no filtering issues as of Monday (3/21).  The total season yield has reached 2.81 pounds syrup/tap or about 75% of an average crop.  A lack of light syrup and overall poor production has been reported (third hand) from some operations. With limited details given on particular tubing/vacuum system performance it is hard to say if this represents the entire counties season.

One Rutland county operation with a sugarbush that ranges from 750-1,300’ in elevation and has correspondingly variable temperatures reports sap sweetness at 1.7% and ‘starting to drop’.  Syrup produced recently has been Very Dark with no off flavors.  Total season yield at this location stood at just under 4 pounds of syrup/tap as of Monday (3/21).  This represents 90% of a crop for this operation.

In Washington county one producer reports average amounts of niter this season.  That operation’s production is at just under 1.5 pounds of syrup/tap.  This puts their season yield at around 50%.  The syrup produced thus far has been mostly Dark with a bit of Amber.  The most recent syrup has begun to be difficult to filter.

In Addison county, one producer reports average sap flow over the past week.  Sap sweetness has dropped somewhat from 2.0 down to 1.8%.  Syrup grade has been Amber with some great flavor especially early in the week (3/15).  Sugar sand has been present for most of the week at this operation (especially abundant on 3/16).  The total season yield has reached 2.2 pounds of syrup/tap.  This represents 50% of an average crop for this producer.

In Chittenden county, one operation reports good sap flow and sweetness around 2%.  The syrup produced at this location has been Golden with good flavor.  Some niter is reported but with no serious issues of filtering.  To date this operation’s season long yield has reached 3.41 pounds of syrup/tap.  Other reports peg yields between 3.3-4.18 pounds of syrup/tap.  Most operations appear to be between 50-60% of a good crop.

In Lamoille county, one producer in what’s should be considered a cold sugarbush reports average flow over the past week.  Sap sweetness has been 2.0% on average.  Syrup produced has been Golden with no off flavors detected.  The season yield has reached 2.1 pounds/tap.  This past week has seen lots of niter but no filtering issues.  Another operation in Lamoille county reports average sap flow over the past week with sap sweetness ranging from 2.2-2.5%.  This operation usually makes light colored syrup but saw the color drop slightly to Amber this week.  The season yield at this operation has reached 3.09 pounds of syrup/ tap.  This represents 50% of an average crop.  This producer has observed the sap changing to be more like what is seen entering the end of the season (harder to filter).  A third Lamoille county producer reports very good sap flow (especially 3/14-17).  Sap sweetness has dropped this week from an average of 2.0 down to 1.8%.  Season yield has reached 2.18 pounds of syrup/tap which equates to between 70-80% of an average crop.  A side note to this seasons production is that a little bit less than half the crop was made in the last 7 days.  Syrup has produced this week has been all Very Dark except for Tuesday (3/15) which was Dark.  No off flavors have appeared although the last two days of production have been notable for very strong flavors

In Franklin county one operation reports ‘strong’ production last week.  Syrup production was perhaps the best one week ever for this producer.  Sap sugar content has dropped some, but this producer is hopeful that it could rebound some following the period of freezing weather.  Unless the forecast changes dramatically, this operation expects to get ‘a couple more weeks’ of production and reach a full crop.  Currently this operation’s yield stands at 3.7 pounds of syrup/tap, which would equal about 50% of a very good year.

In Caledonia county one operation reports sap sweetness ‘holding strong at 2.0-2.1%’ and ‘ is looking a little bit cloudy’.  Total season syrup yield reached 2.26 pounds/tap as of (3/22).  With sap flow expected midweek, the yield should be around 2.5 pounds/tap.  That would represent about 50% of a full crop (this is the 3rd year at this sugarbush).  Low niter is reported and no syrup filtering issues reported.  Some wind damage caused a drop in vacuum.  Even though no visual signs of bud development have been observed, this operation is planning on pulling just red maple spouts (~4% of the total) after this coming weekend.

In Orleans county, one operation (Morgan) saw very good sap flow for the second week in a row.  Sap has been ‘beautiful’, clear and averaging 2.0%.  Syrup produced has been Amber with no off flavors.  The niter has been average in the is operation although it appeared to be heavier early in the week compared to the end of the week.  Like many places around the state, cold weather limited or completely stopped sap flow starting sometime on Friday (3/18).  The season yield has reached 2.2 pounds of syrup/tap.  This represents 50% of an average crop at this location.

In Essex county, one producer reports sunny and relatively warm temperatures brought good sap flow earlier in the week (15-16).  Sap sugar concentration averaged 2.2%.  Sugar sand appeared for the first time on Tuesday (3/15) and a bit more the following day but then was less again by the middle of the week.  Sap sweetness has gone down some (from 2.2 down to 2%).  The total yield to date at this operation has reached 65%.  Sap flow has slowed to a trickle during the past few days.  However, the forecast for cold weather has this producer encouraged that the end to the season is not here yet.

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Infrared image of a large (24″ dbh) sugar maple in the sun showing how much the sun can warm the surface of a south facing tree.  The air temperature in the shade was in the low 20’s at the time of the picture

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March 9th-March 15th

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Snapshot of a season:  Sample jars in a window at Maple Hill Maple, Shaftsbury.  The season in southern Vermont is entering its final stages with some colder, higher elevation operations hoping to make it to better sugaring weather later this week.

Last week brought the warmest temperatures yet seen this year.  Southern Vermont saw readings in the mid to upper 70’s on Wednesday (9th).  Temperatures began to return to (but not reach) more seasonal values a few days later.  A freeze over the weekend kicked off some of the largest sap runs statewide.  Operations that have been able to withstand the above average warmth of last week will likely enjoy another week of good sugaring weather.  Forecasts for the coming 7 days appear to be ideal for many areas of the state.

The report from Bennington County is that flow has slowed for many producers as tap holes are beginning to show ‘their age’.  A report from one producer who purchases sap from many operations is that many individuals are either done completely or are done boiling and have switched to selling sap.  The general feeling from that operation is that the season was below average in sugar content and dark in syrup grade.  Another producer reports reaching 2.09 pounds of syrup/tap (this represents ~90% of a full crop for this operation).  Very strong sap flow was seen on Tuesday and Saturday following freezes on 3/7 and 3/11.  Syrup grade has been Dark or Very Dark with no off flavors reported as late as Sunday (3/13).  The report also includes an observation of ‘very little niter the whole season’.

In Windham County, one producer has reached 2.31 pounds of syrup/tap for the year.  The syrup has been dark in color but excellent flavor.  Sap sugar content has dropped a little given the lack of freezes.  This producer has the advantage of being higher elevation and hopes that will allow production to continue until this Friday’s forecasted freeze.

In Rutland county, a producer reports Saturday (3/12) was the first real run of sap this season.  Sap sweetness is averaging 2.2%.  Syrup grade was very light Amber and a bit of Golden earlier in the week.  The grade changed to Dark and Very Dark, likely as a result of the temperatures in the 60’s-70’s.  As of Monday (3/14) syrup production has reached 3.1 pounds of syrup/tap.  No off flavors are reported.

In Addison county, a Starksboro producer who has a generally cold sugarbush, has reached 1.21 pounds of syrup/tap this season.  This operations first boil was on 3/9.  They have had three very good runs of sap (3/9, 3/11 and 3/12).  Sap sweetness has averaged just barely over 2%.  Syrup grade has included Golden, Amber and Dark with the greatest amount produced as Amber with good flavor.  Like most parts of the state, Saturday and Sunday brought a ‘huge sap run’.

In Washington county, one producer reports sap averaging 2.1% from around 5000 taps.  They have made 375 gallons since their first boil on 3/2.  This operation, as with most, saw an excellent run of sap over the weekend.

Lamoille county, one producer reports great flow on Saturday.  Sap sweetness is 2-2.25%.  This producer reports the first occurrence of sugar sand this season.  The syrup produced has been Golden with no off flavor.  Season syrup production has reached 1.3 pounds of syrup/tap.  Another Lamoille county operation reports very good flow and sap sweetness ranging from 2.2-2.4%.  The season yield at this operation as of 3/13 is 1.83 pounds of syrup/tap.  All syrup produced has been Golden with no off flavors reported.

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3/16″ tubing was running strong Cooks Sugarhouse in Hyde Park all weekend.  Many producers saw the best run of sap on Saturday and Sunday.  Some producers report it as the biggest run of sap they had ever witnessed.

One Franklin county producer reports that Saturday saw perhaps the ‘best run of sap ever’.  Sap sweetness has remained 1.9-2%.  That operation made close to 20% of the seasons total crop in two days.  The season yield so far has reached just under 2.5 pounds of syrup/tap.  Syrup produced has been largely Amber.  The flavor has been sweet without a lot not maple flavor.  This producer commented that sugar sand needs to show up before good maple flavor arrives.

In Orleans county, one Derby operation reports very good sap flow and sap sweetness averaging 2.2%.  Syrup produced has been Golden with no off flavors.  The total season yield for this operation has reached 1.1 pounds of syrup/tap.  Another operation (in Morgan), began collecting sap on 3/8 and boiled for the first time on 3/9.  To date the sap flow has been very good and sap sweetness has averaged 2.2%.  Syrup made so far has been a mix of Golden and Amber with no off flavors.  Per tap yield at the operation was 1.1 pounds as of 3/14.

In Caledonia county, a producer with a fairly cold, mostly west facing sugarbush between 1,500-2,200’ in elevation reports good production since Saturday (3/12).  A light freeze on Monday (3/14) helped boost sap flow.  So far, sap sweetness has ranged between 2.2-2.3%.  By Tuesday (3/15) yield per tap had reached 1.97 pounds.  Syrup grade has been very consistently on the light side of Amber or dark end of Golden.  This producer has heard that others are producing good flavored Dark.  Finally, this producer reports that niter just started to show up.  Syrup has been difficult to filter, requiring more DE. The total amount of syrup that will go through the press before needing to change has been lower this year.

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March 2nd-March 8th

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Herb Beam ‘power tapping’ trees in the sugarbush at Proctor Maple Research Center (1949).

The report last week from Bennington county includes very good sap flow, especially Monday and Tuesday night (29th-1st). Sap sweetness has remained steady for this producer at 1.8%. Dark syrup with no off flavor has been produced most recently. The 2016 yield at this operation has reached just under 60% of their 15-year average. The long range forecast does not appear especially promising with the chance for one freeze in the next two weeks.

In Windham county, a producer reports reaching about 25% of a crop by the 2nd of March. Sap sweetness has averaged 1.9 and the best run was Sunday-Monday (29th-1st). The grade of syrup has been mostly Amber with lesser amounts of Golden and Dark also produced.

In Rutland county the report is one of very slow sap flow since 2/29. This operation has not boiled since last Tuesday (3/1). The sap that has run has been 2.1-2.2% and produced very light Amber syrup with no off flavors at all. The expectation for this producer is the grade will turn to Golden with the next run. To date, this operation has reached about 25% of a crop. The warm temperatures in the forecast are not too concerning provided that they are not accompanied with lots of sun.

In what appears to be one of the colder sugarbushes in the state, a producer in Starksboro has not boiled as of 3/7 but reports that 3/8 looks very promising.

In Lamoille county, one Hyde Park producer with a cold sugarbush reports only one day of flow last week. A good run on Monday, interestingly, was not shared by the neighboring producers. Sap was between 2-2.2% and syrup produced was very light Amber (almost Golden in color). This operation is currently at just under .1 pounds/tap in total production, having sweetened the evaporator and made two barrels of syrup. A second operation in Lamoille county reports average sap flow over the past week with a sugar content of 2.0%. Syrup produced has been Golden with no off flavors. That operation’s yield has reached 0.8 pounds syrup/tap. A forecast that does not show a freeze in the next 10-14 days for this area and hoping to avoid off-flavored syrup tops the list of concerns for this producer.

In Morgan (far eastern Orleans county) a producer reports sap dribbling out on Monday the 29th but then the week was too cold for sap to run.

Sugarmakers have reported some concern about the coming 14-day forecast, with above average temperatures (combined with a lack of freezes) and how it will impact the season. While the prospect of two weeks with little or no below freezing temperatures can be worrying, it’s important to put this season in a bit of context.

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From Vermont Forest, Parks and Recreation: Forest Insect and Disease Conditions in Vermont 2012.

The 2012 sugaring season saw some record warm temperatures in March. In Burlington between March 18th-22nd the high temperatures were; 76, 79, 80, 81, and 81 respectively. That works out to a 79.4 five-day average high temperature. The result of that extremely warm weather was sugar maple flower buds were about 30 days and vegetative buds about 17 days ahead of long term averages at the Proctor Maple Research Center.  Luckily the forecast statewide isn’t calling for any temperatures approaching those numbers. While it has been a comparatively mild winter statewide, to date, there has not been enough accumulated warm temperatures trigger trees to break dormancy.

 

 

Feb 25th-March 1st

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Detailed annual syrup production records from Nebraska Knoll Sugar Farm, Stowe.  Some producers have reported producing more syrup than ever in the month of February, while others are just getting started.

This season’s weather has proven to be quite dynamic. It seems like a good stretch of sugaring weather is quickly followed up by a blast of cold. This was exemplified by the weather around the 25-26th where temps statewide dropped by as much as 25 degrees in some places. Sugarmakers prepared to collect sap in February report some good to very good runs. Some have noted making more syrup than they ever have in February. But it’s the temperatures coming in March and early April will determine if this early syrup is the icing on the cake or just part of the cake itself.

In Bennington County, good runs of sap were reported from 22-25th. Sap sweetness remains decent in the 1.8-2.0 range. One producer reports boiling five times, making mostly dark syrup, low niter and with no flavor issues.

In Rutland County, one producer reports first boiling on February 21st (earliest first boil on record for that operation) as well as the 25th and 29th. Sap sweetness was ~2.2%. Sap flow on the 29th appeared to be limited somewhat by high temperatures. Syrup produced has been very light Amber and likely to rise to Golden.

Lamoille county producers report finishing up tapping. One producer is nearing 20% of a full crop while most reports are in the 10-15% range. Sap sugar content remains in the 2.0 ballpark (give or take 0.1). One report had sap testing out at 1.6. Most producers had a good run on the 25th. One large operation reports getting close to fully tapped (85%). They observed that high winds winds dramatically lessen what would otherwise be good runs.

Pockets of cold weather have persisted in some areas of the state. A producer in Starksboro (Addison County) with a ‘predominately northwest” facing sugarbush reports temperatures still too cold for sugaring.

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A fresh, clean tap hole made into clear conductive sapwood, has the potential for the largest amount of sap production. 

 

One large Franklin County producer reports reaching 1 pound of syrup/tap as of the 29th. The production has been good in general with lower elevations cooling off enough to limit sap flow somewhat. This represents the best February start ever for that producer.

One Orleans County producer reports just average sap flow over the last five days. This producer has yet to make syrup and their sap has tested at 1.5 brix. In Morgan (also Orleans County) had a run on the 25th but the sap was not good enough quality to keep. So far that producer has yet to make syrup. They report never having never made syrup in February.

Looking ahead at the week to come it appears that southern parts of the state and historically warm sugarbushes may see the chance for some sap production but that cooler and more northern areas may miss out. There have been some forecasts to suggest, mid to late March could be warmer than average.