April 11, 2023 Sap Flow Report

Sap Flow Overview

The unexpected warm weather of this week signals the abrupt end of the sugaring season for many in the province. Some folks in the colder regions are holding out until the weekend, but sap has definitively stopped flowing for those in many parts of Southern and Central Ontario. Yields range from excellent in Southwestern, below average/pending for Northern and Eastern Ontario, and average for everyone else.

It’s been a tough year weather-wise for many out in Eastern and Northern Ontario. Sugarbushes went from being frozen solid to thawing in 10-20 degree Celcius spring weather (with no freezing nights) in the matter of one or two weeks. The ice storm came at the most inopportune time for those in Eastern, coinciding with the largest runs of the season. Some producers have reported extensive woodlot damage that in some cases ended their seasons early.

The PDF linked below was published shortly after the 1998 ice storm on caring and rehabilitating ice-damaged woodlots. It contains good information on how to approach woodlot assessment and next steps, but use with caution, as this publication is over 24 years old and some items and reference materials may not be correct or currently available. When in doubt, it is always best to look to trusted Registered Professional Foresters, tree markers, and arborists in your area for guidance.

There have been comments from across the province that this year’s sap sugar content was on average lower than previous years. Average sap sugar content is determined by a mix of genetics, tree health and canopy position, site conditions, and resource availability. If you don’t already, I encourage you to begin keeping records of your maple syrup production, including start dates, first boils, last boils, end dates, Brix throughout the season and yield. I’ll be sharing some examples of excellent datasets that producers have kept for inspiration.

Thanks to all who contributed their observations this week. I will send out another reminder to fill in the survey next Monday.

For the maple syrup production report below, find your region here.

Southwestern (2 respondents)

There was little to no flow in the last week. The two respondents who answered both last made dark syrup and are sitting at 2.04 and 2.55 litres of syrup/tap, which is 160% and 125% of an average year’s crop, respectively. They are happy with their yields and are done for the season.

Barring unusual circumstances, this will be the last week that Southwestern region will be reported on for this year.

Waterloo-Wellington (8 respondents)

The season is over in this region as well. Most syrup producers in this region reported steady/strong sap flow in the past week, with just one reporting slow flow. One producer on vacuum collected 15 litres of sap in the past 7 days. Brix ranges from 1.5-1.9 degrees, universally lower as we head into the final stretch of the season. Mostly dark syrup is being made, with one producer on buckets still making golden. Folks have made 85-130% of an average year’s crop. Due to the weather, most folks are looking to wrap up. Spring peepers (frogs) are out and buds (mostly soft maple, some sugar) are beginning to swell. Some things were unique to this year: one producer commented that sugar sand was at an all-time high and pans needed constant cleaning; another couldn’t recall another year in the last 15 where sap Brix has been low the entire season.

Grey-Bruce & District (4 respondents)

Sap flow in the past week was slow and sporadic, with Brix ranging from 1.8-2 degrees which is lower and signaling the end of the season. Amber, dark, and very dark syrup are being made. Producers are sitting at 70-130% of an average year’s crop. No bud swell has been spotted, but the warm weather forecast in the next few weeks have triggered a few respondents to pull their taps.

Simcoe & District (6 respondents)

Sap flow was slow to good depending on the location. Folks are pulling spiles due to the weather, bud swell, and the appearance of buddy syrup. Brix ranged from 1.8-2.4, with amber, dark, and very dark syrup being made. Respondents with less than 100 buckets reported 20-100% of an average year’s yield, while those with at least 400 taps reported yield from 100-150%.

Haliburton-Kawartha (10 respondents)

Respondents who are still tapped in reported average to very good flows in the past week, though it has slowed significantly in the last few days. Sap Brix ranges from 1.7-2.4, which is low to average. Mostly amber and dark syrup are being made, with some golden and very dark. Most respondents have made 80-170% of an average year’s crop, with one producer on buckets stopping after around 50%. Two producers on vacuum lines commented that 2023 was a record-high year. Folks pulled taps last week or will be this week in response to bud swell.

Quinte & District (5 respondents)

Most respondents reported good sapflow in the past week, with one respondent experiencing poor-average flow. Brix ranged from 1.7-2.4, which one respondent said was comparable to other years. Amber, dark, and very dark syrup are being made. Folks have made 95-110% of an average year’s yield, and are pulling taps in response to bud swell.

Lanark & District (4 respondents)

Sap flow was average to good in this region. Brix ranged from 1.4-2.4 degrees, and two respondents said it was slightly better or average while the other two said it was lower. Amber, dark, and very dark syrup are being made, and folks have made from 90-125% of an average year’s crop. Only one respondent has seen bud swell and made the associated buddy syrup, but the warm temperatures of this week will likely bring an end to the season.

This region was impacted by the ice storm, though it appears not as severely as Eastern region. Some reports of downed trees, branches interfering with lines, and power outages that were fairly easy to overcome.

Eastern (11 responses)

This region experienced the western front of the ice storm that hit Ontario and Quebec mid last week. Producers here had power outages and suffered a range of damage to sugar bushes. Some folks were unable to run their vacuums during the season’s peak flow. Others had extensive damage to their trees and lines that are ending the season prematurely, either for the entire bush or for portions. that One respondent note that though there was limited tree damage, the fallen branches and pulled spiles/taps took enough time to clean that between that and warming weather, they determined it was not worth getting things back in shape.

One producer lucky enough to escape ice storm damage reported some of the best runs of the season last week. Brix from all reports ranged from 1.5-2.2, which was about the same as last year. Mostly amber and some dark are being made. The producer who reported no damage has made about 125% of an average year’s yield, while all other respondents range from 50-80%. Bud swell is being reported and the season will likely end this week.

Ottawa Valley District (7 responses)

Sap flow was slow and inconsistent in this region last week. Temperatures fluctuated wildly, with one producer reporting temperatures of -16 degrees C on the weekend, and +18 C on Tuesday. Some ice storm damage was reported north of Hwy 7. One producer had power outage for a day but was able to recover and collect sap. There is still significant snowpack in the bushes, and one producer reported seeing bud swell. However, most respondents on vacuum and buckets alike will be waiting until at least this coming weekend to see if the forecast changes. One producer reports that sap collected on Tuesday (Apr 11) looks a bit cloudy, but they have an excellent 5-micron sap filter that, with repeated passes, has been proven to remove many of the microbes and change the grade of syrup.

Sap Brix is reported at 2.9-3.1, which is above average for one respondent. Amber and golden syrup is being made. Folks have made 25-60% of an average year’s crop.

Algonquin District (11 responses)

Most respondents reported very good flows this past week, if not throughout then at least in the last few days. Sap Brix ranged from 2.2-2.6, which is average. Golden, amber, and dark syrup are all being made. Several respondents are mentioned an increase in sugar sand and requisite filtration issues. Producers with under 200 taps have made from 2-200% of an average year’s crop. All other producers range from 60-100% of an average year’s crop. Only one producer reported bud swell on trees at the edges of their sugarbush, but the thick snowpack is melting fast in the warm weather.

One producer reported a small amount of ice storm damage. Two others mentioned that this is the best year ever for them; one was a producer on buckets, who has since pulled their taps due to having too much sap to process. Everyone else seems to be holding off in the hopes of better weather.

Algoma & District (4 responses)

Sap flow was decent in the past week, a significant improvement from weeks prior when sugarbushes were still frozen solid. Brix ranged from 2-2.5, which was average to above average for respondents. One respondent remarked that it was down to 1.4 over the weekend. Golden, amber and dark syrup are being made. Folks have made 50-80% of an average year’s crop, and given the weather some are predicting that this will be the last week of production. There is still quite a lot of snowpack in the bush.

There was some scattered damage reported from the ice storm with trees falling on the lines and stretching them out. One respondent had to take some of their bush out of operation but were able to get up and running again.

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