Ontario 2023 Maple Syrup Season Report Summary

Adapted from article submitted to the Maple Digest in May 2023.

Sap Flow Summary

The 2023 maple season was another in a long line of years that have been record-breaking in some strange capacity due to climate change. Winter was a mixture of warm weather punctuated by severe snowstorms.

On the heels of this unpredictable winter, spring came early and unwelcome to Southern Ontario in the latter half of January. This left producers of all sizes scrambling to put their taps in, as sap doesn’t usually start flowing in the warmest areas until around February 15th. A few large producers and prescient mid-size producers who were tapped early had their first boils by the third week of January. Prolonged stretches of fairly ideal maple weather meant that this was an extra-long season for those in the South, and by the end of March many producers had experienced yet another record-setting crop.

The rest of the province was not as fortunate. With the exception of Ottawa Valley and Algoma districts, all other districts had a fairly average year. Some folks began tapping in early February with the warm spell but payoff varied depending on region. Cold weather at the end of February through to mid-March halted sap flow for a few weeks in many regions, though producers in warmer areas (southern Ontario and Quinte district) experienced great sugaring weather and made significant portions of their crops during this time.

Most producers in colder regions began tapping in earnest around the middle to end of March while the season for Southwestern Ontario was ending. In Algoma, Eastern, and Ottawa Valley, the trees finally thawed out enough by the first week of April that producers were seeing decent runs. However, the ice storm of April 5th downed trees and cut off power to many of these sugarbushes during what should have been the best runs of the season. As a result, folks were unable to run their vacuums and ROs. Many had to work overtime to clear fallen trees from their lines, and in some cases even had to abandon parts or all of their sugarbush for the remainder of the season. In the following week, warm temperatures up to 30C were experienced province-wide and abruptly halted sugaring season for central Ontario. Folks in the colder regions held out for up to two weeks after this warm-weather event but the season in these areas was ultimately ended by trees beginning to bud out.

Over the course of the season, we received over 540 responses to our weekly sap flow survey. Algoma, Algonquin, and Ottawa Valley had the lowest average production syrup/tap while Simcoe & Southwestern had the highest.

n=62, indicating the number of survey responses. Responses from operations with over 100 taps were included in this graph.

Our survey also included a question about the percentage of an average crop a producer has made at any given time, with a response of 100% indicating that they had produced the equivalent of an average year’s crop.

Numbers are an average of the survey responses received that week, which is why the yield numbers occasionally show a decrease.

Algoma had the lowest production at approximately 60%, followed by Ottawa Valley at approximately 85%. Southwestern had the highest yields at over 130%, and all other regions clustered around 100% or an average year’s yield.

This year, we also collected late-season data on average syrup yield/tap. We were able to use these numbers to calculate average maple syrup yield as it changed according to sap collection methods as well as producer size.

Vacuum lines performed the best in terms of syrup yield, while gravity and bucket lines performed similarly. This may be due to the relatively small number of responses used to calculate gravity line and bucket yields. For example, a few producers on gravity who happened to be located in low-production regions would drive the average down, and vice versa.

n indicates the number of responses used to calculate the final syrup yield for that category. Responses from producers with over 100 taps were included.

There is a general trend of increasing syrup yield as operation size increases. This is unsurprising, as most larger producers would tend to be on vacuum. Again, low numbers of respondents could be influencing the trends we see.

n indicates the number of responses used to calculate the final syrup yield for that category.

If you haven’t already, please consider taking a few minutes each week next year to fill out the survey during maple season. More survey responses means we can provide more robust data and answer interesting questions like these.

Overall Season Comments

It’s expected that many producers will be raising both retail and bulk prices this year. PPAQ’s bulk price increase, reduced supply, and increased costs are all contributing factors. Furthermore, COVID impacts are still being felt in terms of low equipment and bottle/drum availability, and the closure of some pancake houses and restaurants.

In positive news, the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival returned after 3 years’ hiatus and welcomed its usual record-breaking crowds (60,000-70,000 people!) for a weekend of celebration. The “buy local” movement remains strong and many producers are having more trouble filling orders than finding customers.

The challenges posed by climate change are becoming increasingly evident in all aspects of production, from unpredictable start dates to province-wide warm spells, to windstorms and ice storms. It’s more important than ever to learn how to manage for healthy forests, and to read signs of stress from pests, drought, temperatures and poor soil conditions. Producers can have a hand in making their woodlots healthy and resilient for the years to come. If you’re unsure of where to begin, talk to a Registered Professional Forester with experience in managing maple production. It will be an important investment in your primary resource: your trees.

Thanks to everyone for participating in the maple sap flow report this year. Have an excellent summer!

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3 Responses to Ontario 2023 Maple Syrup Season Report Summary

  1. Don Hoddinott says:

    Thank you so much for the efforts. I always enjoy reading your articles.

  2. Don Smith says:

    Thank you Jenny for all your hard work , I found the weekly survey results very interesting during the maple season

  3. Richard McMillan says:

    This is great info.Thanks.

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