A New Maple Syrup Season is Just around the Corner

It is New Year’s Day 2018 and I am looking out my window at scene straight out of Frozen. I am also contemplating how this polar vortex, we have been locked into for the last 10 days will affect the 2018 maple sugaring season. What a difference 12 months makes! Last year it was 60 degrees on Christmas Day. We had just come through a very warm fall and many producers wondered how the abundance of warm weather would affect sap flow. We did get some cold weather the first week of January but what happened after that first week was record was one for the record books.

I wrote on January 12th that taping was underway, not just in Southern Ohio, but North East Ohio and on up into New England as well. It was called the earliest maple season ever. The Maple News documented the early tappers in action. As hard as it was to believe, January was the month to make syrup in 2017. February turned out to be a bust, ending in 70 plus temperatures on February 24th. The season came to an abrupt end in Ohio the first week of March. The 2017season in Ohio will be remembered for its early start and early finish. For Northeastern producers the windfall of good syrup production continued on into April producing some of the biggest crop ever in the New England and Quebec.  What about 2018?

The long range forecast is calling for the first 10 days of January to be brutally cold for everyone. That could be followed by a January Thaw but nothing like the warmup we experienced in 2017. Starting in February, the crystal ball of weather predictions gets a little hazy. It appears that Ohio and Pa. will revert back to normal or below normal. I hope someone can refresh my memory as to what normal really is, because it has been so long since I experienced normal I forgot what it looks like. If the forecast is right the Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan and Northern Ohio will stay frozen through part of February. This may also hold true in New York and parts of New England, but in areas along the coast it could go above normal, as the weather fronts move up the east coast. Those weather fronts could mean heavy snow for those areas. That brings us to March where a warming trend could take place across the region. All of this is driven by a strengthening La Nina. In 2018 March could once again win back the title of Maple Month.

Ok we all know that these long range forecasts are heavily dependent on the “SWAG” factor leaving everyone guessing. So what should you do to get ready for the 2018 season? Now is the time to get into the woods and make sure your lines are up and ready to go. That is unless you live in places like Erie Pa. where they currently have 52 inches of snow on the ground. In that case go to your closest outdoor equipment shop and buy several pair of snowshoes, your going to need them. Now is the time to watch the weather trends, especially going into February. With new technology we can tap two months in advance and still not take a hit on yield. The heavier the snow accumulation, the more preparation is needed, because it takes a lot more time to get ready when you are dealing with heavy snow and cold. Remember, trees do not care how much snow is in the woods. When it warms up and the snow starts to melt they start to run. If we have learned anything from the last 5 seasons it should be that maple sugaring seasons do not creep in like they did in the old days. The weather can change drastically overnight and you have to be ready when it gets here. This year the early bird may not get the worm, it may be the one that is able to recognize the season when it gets here that will be the winner. Do not get caught with you buckets (lines) down.

This is the first of many posts on the Ohio Maple Blog. Follow us on line and on Facebook. We will be tracking the 2018 season on Facebook so send your progress reports and pictures to the Ohio Maple Blog Facebook Page. Educational articles will be posted directly to the Blog and if you follow us on Facebook you will receive them. If you are not on Facebook then view the blog on line to read the latest posts. Remember we also have the new Hobby Maple Production Fact Sheet available on line. There will be a link posted on the blog. Post questions to our Facebook page and I will do my best to answer them in a timely manner. Thank you for supporting the Ohio Maple Blog and I hope all of you have a Happy New Year and a productive 2018 maple season

Les Ober Geauga County OSU Extension

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