Sap Flow Overview
The 2021 maple syrup season is officially over. Unusually, most of the province ended around the same time, with the last producers finishing up yesterday. Many will be busy cleaning equipment this week. Producers were saying that this year was the toughest year on record, with the exception of 2012. Several remarked on the unusual dryness of their sugar bushes.
Sap sugar content was lower than average throughout the season, leading to some producers running sap multiple times through the RO, and evaporators working overtime.
Buddy syrup did show up, but for the majority of producers who were able to continue through to this week, it seemed to be continuous warm weather stopping sap flow that ended many production seasons, rather than buddy flavour.
News from Quebec is that their maple season is still ongoing, but a shorter season is expected especially in the south end of the province. Like Ontario, they also seem to be experiencing abnormally low sap Brix, and will likely not have another bumper year like 2020.
In terms of marketing and pricing strategies, most Ontario producers will not be making changes to their historical pricing. However, some will be raising prices slightly, especially those whose prices have remained the same for years. Some smaller producers have already sold their entire stock. Few will have enough to sell to packers this year in favour of keeping enough on hand for their regular customers.
Producers here ended their maple seasons last week.
Producers in south-central areas had a small sap run last Wednesday from the early freeze, but none following that, and so were unable to boil. Some producers further north had more luck, with a good run over the weekend and on Monday. Sap was a little cloudy but otherwise had no off-flavours, and dark syrup was made.
Producers ended up making 70-100% of their annual crop. There was some golden, mostly amber, and some dark. Few filtration problems were reported. Sap runs in the last week were smaller than producers hoped for, but flavour was still good throughout. The sweetness ranged from 1-3 Brix, with most people clustered from 1-1.5.
The final sap run of the season happened early this week for producers who were able to keep going. Some folks in Simcoe, northern Quinte and Kawartha are bottling today.
In northern Quinte, the final sap run was still mostly clear, and sugar sweetness ranged from 1.8-3 Brix. Syrup colour grade was mostly dark, with some very dark.
Around Kawartha, some made dark syrup while others made a light amber. Sap sugar content was lower than usual throughout.
Producers report finishing by making 60-90% of their crop in an average year.
Eastern Region and Ottawa Valley
Producers here finished up on Sunday through Tuesday. The sap was still clear in most places, but was starting to get milky in others. Brix ranged from 1.5 to 2. Syrup colour ranged from amber to very dark, and the flavour was very good.
Producers made about 50-60% of what they had made in previous years.
Yesterday was the last day of sap flow, and some producers are finishing up boiling tonight. Some producers had 2 very large runs last week, resulting in some 16+ hour days of boiling! The final sap Brix content was 1.6-2, clear, and boiled down to amber to dark syrup.
Producers reported that off-flavours were beginning to come through by the end of the day yesterday. Producers ended up making about 60% of their annual crop.
The season is over in our northernmost districts as well. Like in Algonquin, the last producers finished yesterday or the day before. The sap was cloudy but did not boil down to buddy syrup. Most producers made amber to dark syrup with sap that had a sugar content of 1.5-2 Brix. However, some outlying producers reported making the lightest syrup they’ve ever made, which worked well for their value-added maple products.
Producers made 50-70% of their average season.
Cleaning Collection Equipment
Timely cleaning will save producers much headache. Sugar that is left on equipment will harden into a concrete that is attractive for mould and bacteria. Click here for an article on cleaning your lines and buckets.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to these reports throughout the season, who welcomed me to their operations and who answered my questions. I will be updating the site throughout the next year with more maple articles in preparation for 2022. As always, feel free to get in touch in the comments or over email (email@example.com). I am always happy to get reports on anything related to maple (or tree nuts, or shelterbelts/riparian areas/trees on farms). Have a safe and happy off-season, and hopefully we can meet in person soon!