March 16th-March 22nd

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.

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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