CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. — Last year's unseasonably warm weather took a toll on the Chippewa Valley's maple syrup output, but local producers say the cooler conditions this year have improved the 2013 outlook significantly.
Syrup flows best in conditions where daytime highs hit the low 40s and overnight lows are in the 20s. Last year, temperatures got into the high 60s in March, which caused sap to stop flowing. But producers say this year's temperatures are just right, and they're hoping production will return to normal levels, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported (http://bit.ly/15UveJ3 ).
"The way the long-term forecast looks, it's looking good," said Corey Grape, the owner of Grape Sugar Bush in Holcombe. "It doesn't look like a rapid warm-up."
Grape plans to tap about 1,200 maple trees this week on his 120-acre parcel. His company typically manufactures 200 gallons of syrup per year, but the early warmth halted sap production, leaving him with about 15 gallons, or 8 percent of a normal harvest.
The sap-collecting season generally runs from about March 15 to April 15.
Michael Jacque, who owns Jacque's Sugar Bush near Thorp, said his season is off to a good start. He said his first batches have a high sugar concentration, which helps produce quality syrup. Jacque said he also expects this season to be quick and productive.
"I think it's going to come and dump on us quickly, and be gone," he said.
While cool weather is good for sap production, tree trunks shouldn't be too cold. That's why the University of Wisconsin Extension office in Chippewa County is encouraging syrup makers to move snow piles away from trees.
"Once we get it warmed up, like this weekend, we should see a good flow," said Jerry Clark, a crops and soils educator with the UW-Extension office. "We're anticipating a better yield. We're optimistic."