April 5th-20th

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Taking the job into your own hands (or paws).  This red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) is harvesting sugar from the underside of a sugar maple (Acer saccharum) at the begining a recent sap run.  The “sapcicle” above tells the story of how this season has gone for many of the human sugar makers in Vermont.

The season has ended for several more operations but is still plugging away for others, mostly in the colder areas.  Reports from north of the border are similarly varied.  According to one report the majority of producers were between 0.5-2.0 lbs. syrup/tap with perhaps the overall average standing at 1.0lbs./tap as of 4/17.  By some accounts it has been the “coldest season in a very long time”.  Despite the cold temperatures, the fear of Buddy syrup is very real for producers in Quebec as many expect this off-flavor to arrive with less than ¼ of a normal crop having been produced.   Sap flow has generally not been very strong for most producers over the last period.  This is despite what appear to be fairly ideal temperatures for stimulating sap flow.  The forecast for the week ahead looks like there will be a significant warming trend with the addition of sunny skies.  This may end the season for all but the coldest operations as tap holes cease to be productive or the quality of syrup fails to have enough value to justify its continued production.

A Bennington County producer reports at least one operation still boiling as of 4/16.  The operation has just surpassed last year’s total syrup production.  Much of this year’s crop was lighter grade syrup.  Sap sweetness appears to be close to or higher than last years.  Given the forecast and sap quality being collected, this operation will likely be done by this coming weekend (4/20-4/22).  Reports of buddy syrup are coming in.

A Windsor County producer reports last boiling on 4/4.  Some neighboring operations have called it quits while others are holding on for a bit longer.  This operation is at 1520’ elevation and will see if this week’s weather cooperates and enough quality sap is gathered to boil again.  Total syrup production has reached 0.44 gal syrup/tap.  This represents about 75% of the yield from 2017.

A Rutland County producer reports exceeding the expected crop by ~10% and climbing.  So far the tap holes have been open for 8 weeks at this location and are still producing.  Sap sugar content has dropped from 2.0% to 1.5 and some readings as low as 1.3 have been recorded.  The syrup quality has been ”wonderful” including some Very Dark with “exceptional”.  No off-flavors have been detected.

A Washington County producer reports reaching about 75% of last year’s crop.  This operation remains hopeful for some quality sap/syrup to come.  The sap ran well by mid-afternoon on 4/10.  The sap sweetness continues to drop from its high of 2%.  The breakdown of syrup grade so far this year has been Golden (10%), Amber (45%) and Dark (45%).  This producer has observed that the retail market seems to favor the darkest syrup grades.

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Pure maple syrup must meet the minimum standards in four areas of grading (Color, Clarity, Density and Flavor).  Tasting each batch of syrup will ensure that customers get the high quality product they expect and deserve.

A Chittenden County operation reports reaching and exceeding 0.5 gal. syrup/tap as of 4/15.  The additional (modest) sap flow over the past week combined with the forecasted temperatures will push that yield close to 0.6 in the next week.  Syrup quality has been good.  Sap sweetness overall has been average to slightly above average.  Recently the sap has followed the expected downward trend, now averaging around 1.6-1.7.  Over all, Nitre has been “moderate” this season with no major difficulties filtering.

A Lamoille County producer reports finishing the season on 4/6.  This operation ended the season with roughly 0.4 gallons of syrup/tap.  This represents approximately XX% of last year’s yield.  The breakdown of syrup grade was 60% Amber, 35% Dark, 5% Very Dark at this location.

Another Lamoille County producer reports season going well despite not receiving much sap from the main woods between 4/4-4/11.  This operation hauls sap from several locations and has seen varying levels of production between these woods.  One property in Chittenden County has produces 2.25lbs syrup/tap.  One property in Franklin County is at 2.69lbs syrup/tap.  A third property (Lamoille County) has reached 4.25lbs syrup/tap.  This producer reports making some of the best flavored syrup ever this season.  This operation is hoping to get “a bunch more” this week and into next.

A third Lamoille County producer in a historically cold location reports getting very slow sap flows this season with almost none since 4/3.  Sap sweetness has remained steady at 2%, “there just hasn’t been much of it.”  This producer guesses there is another week left to the season and expects to end up with about 4lbs syrup/tap.  This is not considered a “banner year” for this operation.

An Orleans County producer reports the biggest runs of the season occurring on 4/3 and 4/4.  The syrup produced was Amber and Golden (69-78% LT).  The weather turned cold and windy following the big run and no boiling has happened since then.  The ground is still covered with snow and the trees are still locked in with no “tree wells” appearing.  Sap has tested at 2.0%.  This operation has reached 50% of a crop as has most of their neighbors.  This operation has heard that a few sugarbushes at higher elevations have had “very poor seasons so far.”

An Essex County producer at 1500’ elevation reports not having a good run since 4/4.  This operation stands at about 50% of a crop.  The woods still have a fair amount of snow cover in this area.

 

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Bonus Bulletin (end of March-April 4th)

Capture
The first US patent for plastic maple tubing went to Nelson S. Griggs of Montpelier, VT in 1959.  Although it seems outdated by today’s standards (tubing was laid out along the ground) this innovation elevated the “time consuming drudgery which accounts for a major portion of the cost in the production of maple sugar…by reducing the tedious task of periodic tree-to-tree collection.”   

A few reports of producers ending sap collection have begun to arrive.  Operations with northerly facing aspects have remained strong with sugarbushes facing south seeing diminished sap flow.

A Massachusetts maple operation about 25 miles south of Bennington reports they are still producing syrup as of 4/4.  The sap has dropped to 1.5% but “still running good”.  All syrup has been Golden and Amber with just a small amount of Dark.  Flavor has been good until recently.  Total production has been average or slightly above average this season.

In Bennington County one producer reports being done after making “a full crop”.  Another producer reports last boiling on 3/29.  There was modest freeze the following night that only produced a “weak run” on 3/31 and 4/1.  This operation is just over an average crop in terms of syrup production.  A third producer in Bennington County reports boiling 3/31-4/2 and reaching 80% of last year’s total.  This operation taps a high elevation sugarbush and expects to be boiling “several times more”.  There have also been no reports of off-flavored syrup to date.

A Windsor County producer reports having an excellent season so far.  Total syrup production has reached 4.5lb/tap at this location.  Most the syrup has been Golden and Amber.  This producer saw good runs of sap in February and early March.  The previous five days were 3/30-4/3 have been disappointing from a sap flow perspective despite what would seem like idea sugaring weather.  The sap sweetness has also dropped from 2.0 to 1.6%.

A Washington County producer reports reaching about 50% of a crop as of 4/2.  This operation has suffered from vacuum issues, labor issues and health issues, all of which have contributed to lower than expected production.  Sap has been around 2%.  The distribution of syrup grade so far this season has been 45% Amber, 45% Dark and 10% Golden.

In Lamoille County a producer reports reaching about 60% of a crop as of 4/2.  Syrup has been mostly Amber (70%) with some Golden (30%).  The syrup flavor has been “outstanding.  Sap has remained steady at 2%.  There has been very little niter and no issues with filtering so far.

A second Lamoille County producer reports purchasing sap from a variety of locations with a range of production levels.  A property in Orleans County has had issues with low vacuum and high snow and the season production has reached 1.75lb/tap.  A property in Franklin County has also struggled with low vacuum and has reached 2.35lb/tap.  A third property (Lamoille County) has reached 3.6lbs/tap.

A third Lamoille County producer reports making a “full crop”.  Sap flow has slowed down significantly on the southwest facing trees.  Trees with northern aspect are still running.  In terms of flavor there has been some “early bud detected”.  This producer is about done for the season.

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Thermal and visual image of six different spouts.  The top two spouts are black nylon, the middle two spouts are green and white nylon (left to right) and the bottom two spouts are clear polycarbonate spouts.  The air temperature in the shade at the time the images were taken was 14F.   

An Orleans County producer reports sap running about average and steadily over the past week.  Sap has tested between 2.0-2.2% over this period.  Nice flavored Amber syrup is being produced currently.  This operation was at about 1/3rd of a crop as of 4/1.

A Caledonia County producer reports that 3/31 was the “first good run of the season”.  All syrup this season has been on the light end of Amber (70-74% LT) except for the first two runs in February.  Sap has been between 2-2.2% all season.  It has been a very “low niter year” with very little pan cleaning necessary.  As of 4/2 there was still 12018” of snow in the woods and the snow has just begun to pull away from the trees (tree wells).

An Essex County producer reports reaching about 50% of a crop as of 4/4.  A lot of snow remains on the ground and no significant warm temperatures in the forecast.  Syrup filtering at this location has not been difficult to date.

 

 

March 16th-April 2nd

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The 2018 Vermont sugaring season has had a bit of both sap and snow.  Here a Lamoille County producer gathers sap with 3/16″ tubing and a diaphragm vacuum pump. 

The 2018 sugaring season has so far been divided into two distinct seasons as illustrated by the graphs below.  Producers who were partially or completely tapped in late February were able to make syrup before the big freeze up in the middle of March.  Those that produce syrup in the historically coldest sections of the state saw little if any sugaring weather.  As a result, operations in the far north and eastern counties are tracking behind in terms of syrup production.  With what looks like good weather in the forecast and no call for excessively warm temperatures it looks like these areas will likely catch up to historical averages.

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A Bennington County producer reports a “great sap run” or eight consecutive days of gathering finishing up on 3/29 after two nights in a row without a freeze.  Sap started out at 2.2% and ended at 2.0% by the end of the run.  Syrup produced was mix of nice Golden and Amber.  As of 3/29 this operation has produced 100% of an average crop, almost 50% of that total was made in just the last week.  Some producers have seen their wood supply run out on account of low sap sweetness.  Snow is holding on in the woods.  “All tired but happy sugar makers around here”.

Another Bennington County producer reports reaching 40% of last year’s crop as of 3/24.  The sap sugar content is down a bit from the five year average (~1.6).  This season the sap has been averaging between 1.3-1.4.  Syrup grade has been Golden with no off-flavors detected so far.

In Windsor County a producer reports having a “super year” so far.  As of 3/26 total syrup production had reached 80% of an average crop.  All syrup has been Golden and Amber grade with excellent flavor.  Sap flow was reported as “very fast” before the big freeze with more modest runs occurring around 3/23 and into the weekend.  Sap sweetness has been “on the low side” for this operation with sap testing at 1.6 before the freeze but rising somewhat after.  This producer notes that some of the rise in sugar content might be an artifact of having ice in the sap tanks at the time of measurement.

A Washington County producer reports no sap flow from early March to 3/24 and a good run of sap on 3/26.  Sap has been low in sugar content and had just reached 2.0% by 3/29.  Total production at this location is now 33% of an average crop.  Syrup flavor has been “consistently good…although on the dark side”.

A Lamoille County sugar maker reports “an excellent season thus far-very pleased.”  Syrup grade has been mostly Amber or Dark.  The sap has been running very well.  The weekend (3/23-3/25) produced another good run.  Sap sweetness was not considered “great” and has been between 1.5-2.0.  Syrup flavor has been very good and no off-flavors detected.

Another Lamoille County operation reports reaching about 35% of an average crop by 3/26.  Syrup grade has been mostly Amber with the color anticipated to lighten to Golden with subsequent boils.  Issues with drops falling off spouts during a recent cold spell has hampered vacuum at this location.  There has been “no niter to speak of” at this location.

An Orleans County sugar maker reports that sap “started trickling in 3/22 and had enough to boil by 3/26.  Sap has been testing at 2.3, which is considered average for this location.  So far the total season production has reached just over 15% of an average crop.  Syrup grade has been solidly Amber color (65% light transmittance) with good flavor.

A Caledonia County producer reports a few poor quality sap runs (likely just stimulated by sun) between 3/22-3/25.  There was a good sap run on 3/26 (the first since the long freeze).  All sap since the freeze has been between 2.0-2.2% which is close to historical averages at this location.  Total production is at 20%, “which seems to be pretty average for other sugar makers in the area”.

An Essex County producer reports making only about 10% of their annual crop as of 3/26.  Sap flow is reported as being “very slow”.  The sap that has been collected has been sweet however, almost 3% at last check.  Syrup grade has been darker than is typical for this operation but no off-flavors have been detected so far.

 

 

 

2018 Vermont Maple Bulletin Season opening-3/15/18

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All sugaring seasons begin with one drop…

Welcome to the 2018 Edition of the Vermont Maple Bulletin.  This project is beginning its third year.  The Bulletin is intended to provide a general summary of Vermont syrup production.  Thank you to all the producers who contribute production data.  Given all the variables in location, production technology and processing techniques it’s impossible to perform rigorous analysis on the information but it does allow for some general statewide summaries.  If you would like to contribute reports for the 2018 season feel free to contact me to learn how:  mark.isselhardt@uvm.edu

The 2018 Vermont maple season is well underway in all parts of the state.  In historically early running sites the season has passed the halfway point in terms of syrup production.  Some of the historically colder areas, especially but not limited to, producers in Essex, Caledonia and Orleans counties are at around 25-30% of an average crop.  Reports of high sap flow have been made from around the state, with the areas of central and southern Vermont being the most likely.  As always it is challenging to accurately measure and report sap sweetness and what one producer considers “low” would be average or even above average in another location.

The season’s weather has also been dynamic.  Tapping was largely done on bare ground or generally low snow conditions.  Recently that has changed and snow depths have reached midwinter levels in many areas statewide.  This makes keeping lines free flowing difficult.  Additionally, there have been some reports of what appear to be local weather patterns and/or elevation inhibiting sap flow compared to other operations in very close proximity.  There have also been some reports of sap running well in cold conditions that would not normally see sap flow.

A Massachusetts maple operation about 25 miles south of Bennington reports starting tapping on January 10th.  Syrup production to date has reached about 50% of a crop.  Sap sweetness has been about 1.75%.  Syrup has all been good flavored.  About a third of which was Golden, some early season Dark and the remainder being Amber.

A Bennington County producer reports reaching about 50% of a crop.  Sap has been averaging around 1.5%, which is considered low for this operation.  Temperatures hit 72F at this location on 2/21.  Most of the syrup produced to date has been Dark or Very Dark.  The recent cold period appears to be changing sap so that Amber grade syrup is being made.

In Rutland County a producer reports starting to tap on February 14th and finished on February 19th.  First boil at this location was February 21st.  This is considered early as that operation usually does see sap until end of February-beginning of March.  Good quality Amber syrup was made with temperatures reaching 67.  Boiling on February 27th produced the season’s first Golden syrup.  Sap sweetness has risen from about 1.8 average to 2.2.  Early March weather was fairly mild without hard freezes at night.  This producer reports fairly wide temperature fluctuations and lots of snow.  The sap has been generally below average and had risen to an average of 2.0 by March 12th.  A big run of sap was also noted on that date.  The niter was heavy, so much so that switching sides didn’t help.  This operation reports using little or no DE until the end of the season.  This season they have seen days that only about 1/3 of the syrup would get through the press before becoming plugged.  Some extremely light (perhaps the lightest ever made at that location) Golden syrup was produced on 3/12.  Total syrup production has reached about 45% as of 3/14.

Another Rutland County producer reports hard sap runs this season; harder than they can recall seeing sap run.  This producer also reports sap sweetness being down a bit from the long term average.

In Orange County a producer reports completing tapping on February 10th.  Sap was first collected from the sugarbush that sits between 1800-2000’ elevation on February 20th.  First boil at this location was on February 22nd.  There was enough sap to just sweeten the pans and make a few gallons of syrup.  This producer reports very high temperatures “around town” but relatively cool temps in the woods.  Trees appeared to be slow to respond.  The warm temperatures were not accompanied by sunshine.  This producer also reports making some syrup earlier with Metabolism off-flavor, which has since cleared up.  Additionally, some equipment issues caused this operation to lose about one day’s production (roughly 6% of the total syrup expected).

A Washington County producer reports finishing tapping on 2/24 and the first boil on 2/26.  The total production has reached about 25% of a full crop.  The syrup produced has been mostly Dark.  The sap is running “very watery” ranging from 1.5-1.7%.  The sap has been observed running “surprisingly well” at low temperatures this season.

In Lamoille County, one producer reports reaching about 2/3rds of a crop.  Sap sweetness has been below average at this location (1.5-2.0 brix).  All syrup produced has been Amber.

Another Lamoille County operation was 90% tapped by February 22nd.  The first boil was also on 2/22.  The early season sap averaged 2.0 Brix.  There were no “tremendous runs” of sap but considered OK.  About 25% of a crop was made in February and the first week of March at this location which is ahead of schedule for this historically cold location.  Syrup grade has lightened to Golden by 3/9.  The remainder of the syrup has been Amber with “very nice flavor”.  Additionally, very little niter has been seen so far.

A third Lamoille County operation that boils sap from the home woods as well as from other locations reports reaching 1.89 pounds of syrup/tap on 3/12.  This is considered about 1/3 of a crop at this location.  First boil was on 1/16.  Sap sweetness appears to be slightly lower than normal but “still not bad though”, roughly 2.0%.  The early season sap was characteristically low (1.6%) but climbed quickly.  No reach “gushers” of sap so far this season at the main woods while it ran “like crazy” in a few warmer woods where sap is collected.  There have been other reports of wind, elevation or odd temperature situations that appeared to prevent or severely limit sap flow.  This operation has also been struggling with extremely challenging filtering this season.  The syrup appears to filter like very late season syrup (more slime-type niter).  Some days less than 25% of the expected syrup can be filtered through the press before plugging.

In Chittenden County; one operation reports despite experiencing severe wind storm damage in October 2017, being around 1/3 of a crop.  They also report exceptional quality syrup being produced so far.  Total syrup production has reached about 1/3 of a crop despite having missed a few of the first few runs.  No syrup filtering problems have been reported at this location.  They have seen a couple of big sap runs.

Another Chittenden County operation reports reaching about 40% of a crop to date.  The sap flow has been decent with no real “gushers” reported.  Sap sweetness has been average to slightly above average.  Syrup filtering has not been challenging at this location.

In Orleans County a producer with a historically cold sugarbush reported still tapping as of 2/22 and first boil on 2/27.  That operation boiled for five days before cold and snowy weather put an end to the sap flow.  No heavy sap runs have been seen to date.  It was observed that trees in the 1,200-1,500’ elevation range were running “OK” whereas trees higher up (1,500-1,800’) were not running at all.  The sap sugar content started at 1.8 and rose to 2.2 at this location.  All syrup has been “nice” Amber grade.

In Essex County a producer reports reaching about 20% of a crop by 3/9.  The sap was running surprisingly well the last week of February-first days of March even though the temperature “never broke 35F).

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GDD 2018
Growing degree days (GDD base 32) accumulation in 2017 and 2018.  The upper map shows the accumulation of GDD in 2017 as of March 16th and the lower map as of March 14th 2018.  Cold temperatures or the lack of many significant high temperatures in 2018 are reflected in the larger area of light blue in Vermont.  This could bode well for a long season assuming no major warmups occur early.

April 6th-May 1st

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Time to make the next generation of maple producers:  Sugar maple flowers can either be ‘perfect’ (male and female parts) or ‘imperfect’ (just one or the other) and are now thought to be mostly wind pollinated. 

The 2017 maple season in Vermont is over.  For a crop known for producing no two seasons alike, this year certainly didn’t disappoint.  Producers who were tapping during the early January sap run, had the season last nearly nine weeks.  For those who waited out the first runs of sap the season was more typical in length.  It seemed like the month of March behaved more like a cold February than anything else.  While production totals have yet to be finalized statewide, it does appear that the 2017 season was good overall.  A few producers saw yields above last year’s record crop while most operations appear to be “there or thereabouts” compared to the long term average.  It appears that syrup flavor was excellent for most producers, with only limited reports of off-flavors received.

A Bennington County producer reports the season ended on April 3rd.  This operation began tapping in early February and first boiled on February 19th.  The sap sweetness was noticeably low this year (averaging ~1.5% for the season).  The last boil was on April 13th.  Total yield for this operation was 0.172 gallons of syrup/tap (1.9 pounds/tap).  This is estimated to be about 85% of an average crop for this producer.  Syrup grade was almost all Dark-Robust.  No off-flavors were reported.

A Windsor County producer reports a record year, eclipsing even last year’s totals.   The boiling season began on February 22nd and lasted until April 11th at this location.  Good runs of sap were reported on 8-10th of April.  The crop included some of all four grades of syrup.  No off-flavors were detected.  Syrup yield from this operation reached 0.62 gallons of syrup/tap (6.82 pounds/tap) in 2017.

An Addison County producer reports having the second best season on record.  Syrup grade ranged from a light Amber-Rich to Dark-Robust.  No off-flavors were detected.  This relatively cold location began tapping on February 8th, finished tapping on the 19th and had their first boil on February 23rd.  Good runs of sap were seen up until the end of the season.  Syrup yield reached 0.46 pounds of syrup/tap (5.08 pounds/tap) at this location.

One Lamoille County producer in a relatively cold location saw better than average production this season.  The sap sweetness averaged over 2% for all but the final week of the season.  This operation was still in the process of tapping when a big run came in mid-February.  Syrup grade was consistently light with ‘Golden or very light Amber comprising about 2/3 of the crop’.  As with others around the state March was colder than average.  This operation only boiled 6 times in March but made up for it with good April sap flow.  Total production at this location reached .44 gallons of syrup/tap (4.8 pounds/tap).  Another Lamoille County producer reports a good season that started after the first big run in February.  Good vacuum made up for lost time, average vacuum levels were around 24” Hg.  Syrup grade weighted towards Amber (80%) and a small about of Dark and Very Dark made at the end of the season (11% and 9% respectively).  Sap sweetness averaged about 2% during the season and dropped to below 2% at the end.  Total yield at this location reached 0.33 gallons of syrup/tap (3.6 pounds/tap).

An Orleans County producer reports finishing up production on April 13th when syrup took on a slight Buddy smell.  Unusual for this location was that >90% of the crop was very light Amber or Golden.  The last week of production saw average sap flow.  Sap sweetness had dropped to 1.7% and Dark-Robust syrup being produced.  Total yield for this operation reached .43 gallons of syrup/tap (4.7 pounds/tap).

Many thanks to all the producers who took time from their busiest time of the year to gather and contribute weekly data for this project.  Many operations appreciate hearing how the season is progressing around the state and you make this possible.  Thanks!

March 18th-April 5th

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Neighbors boiling:  Steam rises from two sugarhouses along the Lamoille River valley while just out of view, two more operations work through a batch of syrup.

The 2017 season continues across the state.  While southern or traditionaly warmer areas are finishing up, some of the cold locations are just hitting their stride.  While it’s too early to tell how the crop will turn out statewide, it’s clear that the early start to the did not significantly limit overall yields for most producers.  Reports of excellent syrup flavor and some locations with above average sap sweetness have been received.  Snow remains in the woods across the northeast of the State and will likely allow the season to continue for at least another 1-2 weeks.   Forecasted temperatures reaching the 70’s for early next week will bring the end for many operations.

In Bennington County the season is nearing an end.  One producer reports average sap flow over the past week.  The night of 4/2 might be the last freeze of the season.  Sap has averaged 1.7% over the last week.  Dark/Robust syrup is being made at this location with no off-flavors reported.  Total syrup yield at this operation has reached 85% of an average crop.  Some reports of taps shutting down have come in and at least one observation of spring peepers singing on 4/3 makes it seem like all but the coldest areas in the county will be done by the end of the week.

One Rutland County producer reports boiling for a seven-day stretch (3/28-4/3).  Temperatures below freezing each night and ‘just the last couple of days above 45.’.  Syrup made has been a very light Amber/Rich (‘so close to Golden’) with very little Dark produced and no off-flavors.  Abundant (‘more than I have ever seen in my sugaring lifetime’), very light colored (‘snow white’) sugar sand built up like ‘sand dunes’ in the syrup pan.  Sap sweetness had been holding at 2% but has dropped to 1.8% recently.  This operation estimates the yield to be around 3.6 pounds of syrup/tap or roughly 85-90% of an average crop by the end of 4/3.

In Windsor County a producer reports a great run beginning on the afternoon of 4/1 and continuing into 4/2.  The following day 4/3 has a slower run.  Sap sweetness has averaged 2.0% at this location over this period.  Amber/Rich syrup with no off-flavors has been produced.  Total yield has reached 4.8 pounds of syrup/tap which is estimated to be 110% of an average crop.

In Washington County a producer reports that sap flow has been very good over the past week.  Sap sweetness has averaged 2.0% during this time.  Amber/Rich syrup with excellent flavor has been produced.  Total yield has reached 1.87 pounds of syrup/tap.  According to this producer, the relatively low production numbers are likely a result of not capturing all of the sap runs in February.

In Addison County a producer reports good sap flow coming 4/1-4/2.  The sap sweetness was 2.3% during this time.  Syrup grade has been Amber/Rich (some of which was very light in color).  Sugar sand returned and the syrup was the ‘best tasting of the season’.  Another hard run of sap on 4/3 saw sap sweetness go up slightly (2.4%) and very light colored Amber/Rich syrup with great flavor being produced.  So far at this (usually cold) location the total syrup yield has reached 80-85% of an average crop.

In Lamoille County a producer in a cold area reports that sap has ‘finally started to flow…”.  Sap flow over the last week has been average but ‘poor for the season’.  This operation reports measuring sap sweetness between ‘2.8-3.2 for 5 days.’ Sap has not been below 2.0% all season.  Syrup grade has been mostly Amber/Rich until recently when the color turned to Golden with lots of niter.  The syrup flavor has been ‘the best Golden we’ve ever tasted’.  Total syrup yield has reached 2.7 pounds/tap at this location.  This represents about 50% of an average crop for this operation.  Besides the 1st barrel of the season, none of the crop has been off-flavored.  Another producer in Lamoille County also reports sweet sap (averaging 2.5% sugar).  Sap flow has been average over the past week.  Syrup grade has been Golden/Delicate with no off-flavors.  This operation has reached 3.9 pounds of syrup/tap which represents about 2/3’s of an average crop for this location.  Based on the current forecast this producer expects to be able to boil for another week and a half to two weeks.

In Orleans County on operation reports very good sap flow over the last period.  Six inches of wet snow fell on April 1st that ‘resulted in our sweetest and largest sap runs for the season’.  Syrup grade was Golden on 4/2 ‘which is unusual for our sugarbush.’.  Sap sweetness has averaged 2.2%.  No off-flavors have been detected.  Total syrup yield has reached 2.2 lbs/tap for this producer.  This represents about 50% of an average crop.

In Essex County a producer reports that sap ‘finally started running last weekend (3/25-3/26) but it too 2 days to get enough sap to boil.’.  This operation boiled each day from 3/28-4/2 having previously only boiled on 3/9 and 3/22.  By 3/22 this operation was at about 25% of an average crop.  Sap in March averaged 2.0-2.2% sugar and syrup was Amber/Rich or Dark/Robust.  The sap collected in April has averaged 2.6-2.8% sugar and the syrup grade has been Amber to just below Golden/Delicate in color.  This operation has now reached about 45% of an average crop.  As of 4/3 there was still 2’ of snow in the woods and no tree wells appearing around the bases of the trees.

March 4th-March 17th

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Waiting for warmer weather:  Roadside buckets in Caledonia County sit idle until the next run of 2017 sap. 

Vermont’s 2017 sugaring season is currently in a holding pattern due to cold temperatures and heavy snow that fell over the past week.  The prevailing story before this cold period was how early the season began at many locations and shear length of time with above average temperatures.  The past 8 days have seen below average temperatures and near record snowfall.  It has been said that “an average is made of many numbers” sometimes the numbers that make the average are close together and sometimes they are all over the place.  If the 2017 season in Vermont turns out to be ‘about average’, it will likely get there more like the latter.

The long period of above average temperatures had many asking about an early onset of spring and maple bud break.  As mentioned in the previous Bulletin, the scientific study of climate and periodic cycles in nature is called phenology.  The observation of spring bud development in maples is a form of phenology.  The process whereby a given tree begins to exit dormancy is complicated, stimulated in large part by the accumulation of warm days.  Growing Degree Days (GDD) is one measure that averages daily high and low temperature and subtracts it from an accepted base value.  The base value can be different for different species (for maple, 32F is often used).  Not all species will break bud at the same time since different species have different strategies related to spring activity and therefore have different requirements for accumulated GDD.  The map below helps illustrate how parts of the maple world (more southern areas) have seen a very early end to the season whereas other parts (more northerly parts such as Vermont) continue to produce.

agdd-32f.png
A tale of two maple seasons:  A map depicting the accumulated Growing Degree Days (GDD) as of March 16th, 2017 shows how much closer southern maple producing states are to spring than northern parts.

Spring tree phenology is more complex than accumulated GDD alone but it does help tell the story.

In Bennington County one producer reports poor sap flow over the last period.  Sap sweetness was averaging 1.7 brix.  Syrup produced was Very Dark/Strong Taste with no apparent off-flavors.  Total yield at this location has reached 0.8 pounds/tap which represents about 35% of an average crop.

 

In Washington County a producer reports very good sap flow over the last period.  The sap averaged 1.7 brix.  Syrup produced has been Amber or Dark in grade with no off-flavors detected.  Total yield has reached 0.93 pounds of syrup/tap.

 

A Windsor County producer reports very good flow of sap between 3/7-3/9.  Sap sweetness averaged 1.8% at this location.  Syrup produced was Amber with no off-flavors.  Total yield at this location is now at 3.0 pounds/tap.  This represents about 66% of an average crop for this operation.  It sounds like others around the county have reached about 50% of an average crop.

One Lamoille County producer reports very good sap runs over the last period.  Sap averaged 2.0% during this time.  Syrup produced has been Amber with no off-flavor.  Another producer reports making good flavored Amber (then lightening to Golden) syrup.  Sap sweetness has been between 2.0-2.2% at this location.  The total syrup yield is around 20% of an average crop.

 

In Orleans County a producer reports average sap flow over the last period.  Sap sweetness was averaging 1.8% during this time.  Syrup grade was Amber with no off-flavors reported.  Total yield at this location was 1.1 pounds/tap.  This represents 20% of an average crop.