The 2016 season ended for virtually all operations in Vermont this past week. While some operations were not pleased with this year’s production, many have had an average to above average crop of syrup. Operations from all parts of the state have reported seeing a few runs of sap greater than anything seen in recent history. Some of these operations report making 10-20% of their entire crop in 24 hours. While early warm temperatures allowed producers to make syrup in late January-early February it’s not yet clear how much these early runs contributed to the total yield. A lack of many reports of widespread off flavor suggest that this year was good in terms of flavor. The story of sap sweetness 2016 also remains unsettled. There have been many reports of below average sap sweetness while other producers report average to above average sweetness this year. Without detailed records and standardized methods of when and how to measure sugar content it is difficult to draw too many conclusions on this subject. No doubt this will be vigorously debated in the months to come.
In Addison county, a producer reports that 4/19 was their last boil. This producer reports an above average season. The season began at this cold location on 3/9. The sap sweetness averaged 1.5% during the last week. The syrup produced was Dark with no off flavors reported. Total season syrup production reached 4.47 pounds/tap at this location. There was a ‘monster run’ on 3/12 at this location (larger than anything seen in eight years and represented ~7.5% of the entire crop).
In Rutland county, one operation reports that the season ended on 3/31 and production was average overall. Season syrup yield was 4.2 pounds/tap. This operation saw weather as the greatest challenge to having a more productive season. Early warm temperatures and a few noteworthy high temperature days may have impacted late season sap flow by enhancing microbial growth in tap holes earlier than normal. The syrup produced at this location also appeared to reflect the periods of above average temperatures with some good flavored Dark syrup being made in mid-March. This operation saw very little in the way of sugar sand. This producer noticed that during part of the season, the niter took on a dark, cloudy consistency even while Amber syrup was being produced. At the end of the season, following ‘the last cold spell’, abundant white sugar sand was developing faster than normal.
Operations in Chittenden county have reached the end of the season as well. One producer reports an above average crop. Sap sweetness was down to around 1.5% at the end. The total season production was 6.75 pounds of syrup/tap at this location. This represents a little above the 12-year historical average for this location. This producer chose to dump sap a few times late in the season to keep syrup quality from dropping to Processing grade. Another producer reports ending the season on 4/16 and reaching 7 pounds of syrup/tap. Syrup grade was a mix of Golden and Amber mostly. Not much off flavored syrup was reported at this location.
In Lamoille county one producer reports being very pleased with the season. This operation first made syrup on February 29th and the last boil of ‘decent syrup’ was March 31st. A boil on March 11th produced severely buddy syrup. March ended up being a very productive month, with some the greatest sap flow occurring between the 25th-27th. The sap sweetness was perhaps lower than normal at this location. This producer reports sap starting out at 2.0%, dropping to and remaining at 1.8% for most of the season. The last run of sap was 1.6%. Syrup grade tended to be darker than average for this producer. Except for a few gallons of borderline Amber/Rich at the start of the season, 2/3 of the syrup was Dark/Robust with the remaining 1/3 coming in at Very Dark/Strong. The bulk of the crop was Total season syrup production at this location was 4.34 pounds/tap. Another producer reports that the season has ended (4/19). The sap flow over the past week was good in general and slowed down following the last warm up. Sap sweetness dropped from 2% to just under 1.8%. Syrup was mostly Amber/Rich but changed to Dark/Strong with no off flavors on 4/17. Total season syrup production at this location has reached 5/5 pounds/tap. This represents the ‘best season by far for our three years (in operation)’. This producer attributes the high production to two factors; length of season and sweeter than average sap. This producer also reports making at least 15% of the crop as off flavored syrup in the previous two years. This season it is unlikely that any of their crop will be off flavored. Yet another operation reports that the season continued as of 4/18. The past week saw average sap flows and sap sweetness around 1.7%. The syrup produced had ‘decent flavor’ for most of the week until late Sunday when things changed dramatically. Sap flow ‘dropped way off’ and flavor was no longer table grade. Total season syrup production reached 6.25 pounds/tap at this operation.
The past week brought light, good tasting syrup as well as the end of the season to one operation in far eastern Orleans county. The final boil at this location was on 4/18 with Dark syrup being produced. Total season syrup production reached 6.2 pounds/tap for this operation. This a ‘very big year’ for this operation, exceeding past records for production/tap dating back more than 35 years.
In Caledonia county a producer reports the end of the season arrived on 4/17 with the onset of buddy flavored syrup. The sap sweetness was still running 1.5-1.6% at the end. This producer also reports that sap sweetness was above average this year without a lot of niter ‘and barely any sugar sand’. The total syrup production at this location ended up at 6.3 pounds/tap. The season lasted from 2/25-4/17 at this location with 19 days boiled.
In Essex county, a producer expected the end of the season to be on 4/19 as the sap had turned buddy on 4/18 and sap flow was quite slow. Sap sweetness dropped from 1.7% to 1.5% over those two days. This operation saw its first run of sap on 2/2. The majority of the syrup produced at this location was Golden and Amber. There was not much Dark syrup made. Total season syrup yield was just under 4.25 pounds/tap. This producer reports the best week of production came between 3/27-4/2 with extremely large runs of sap.
Lastly, this will be the last edition for the 2016 season. A tremendous thank you to all the producers who took time away from their operations to contribute information for this project. With very little advertising or promotion, the Vermont Maple Bulletin has received a good deal of attention and positive feedback. The Bulletin will be continued next season.
University of Vermont Extension Maple Program