Thursday, March 09, 2017

Warmer winter temperatures in Michigan causing problems among state's maple syrup producers

Maple syrup released into the final stage of the
process (Detroit Free Press photo by Elaine Cromie) 
An unusually warm winter in Michigan is wrecking havoc on the state's multi-million dollar maple syrup business, Ken Palmer and Ann Zaniewski report for the Lansing State Journal and Detroit Free Press. Warmer weather has shortened the season, making it difficult for maple sap producers to decide on the best time to tap trees. If they do it too early they "miss the best flows if conditions are better later." If they wait too long they could miss the best sap. "Once trees start budding, the quality of the sap quickly declines."

As a result of the warmer winter, "some producers are collecting less sap than in previous years, or having to use more to make the same amount of maple syrup," Palmer and Zaniewski write. Temperatures in Michigan in February were well above normal, averaging in the high 30s for most of the state for the month, with record-breaking temperatures reaching in the 60s and 70s on same days. "Ideal weather for sap flow is when temperatures are below freezing at nighttime and above freezing in the 30s and 40s during the day. When the weather is well above freezing both day and night, the sap can run to tops of the trees."

Michigan produced between 90,000 to 148,000 gallons a year over the past four years, Palmer and Zaniewski write. "The season typically lasts four to six weeks. March is usually the sweet spot. This year, some producers in southern Michigan tapped as early as late January."

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