Tips for setting up a new sugar bush

By Anne-Sophie Couture-Goulet, Director of Marketing and Communications

I had the opportunity to interview Michaël Cliche, a forestry engineer by training who has been a maple sugaring advisor at the Association des propriétaires de boisés de la Beauce since 2018. He humbly agreed to share his knowledge with us on a fascinating subject!

Anne-Sophie Couture-Goulet (ASCG): What sorts of things do you need to consider before you even start preparing the site?

Michaël Cliche (MC): First, you need to be aware that it will take a lot of time and money. Many sugar bushes fail because owners don’t keep up with their monitoring and investments. Until the trees are human-height (so 5 to 6 feet tall), they’re vulnerable to a lot of things.

ASCG: What characteristics do you need to consider in a site?

MC: First, you need to make sure that the species you’re planting can grow in our climate. Next, you need to check that the site has the right soil for that species. That means looking at things like drainage and texture—whether it’s a very sandy soil or a clay soil, for example. Finally, you need to consider the fertility of the soil, which means considering the pH and mineral

ASCG: What is autecology? And why is it important for the development of your sugar bush?

MC: Autecology is a science that studies how species interact with their environments and each other. It concerns the environment around the tree, so things like shade, soil, pH, and competition with other species.

ASCG: In other words, you need to choose the right species of maple for your site.

MC: For syrup production, you usually see red maples and sugar maples. There’s also the black maple, which is found more in the south of Quebec, and silver maples which are found more in wetlands or on riverbanks. Regardless of personal preferences, though, it’s important to choose the right species for the site and its growth potential. You really need to make sure the species is a good fit for your location. In the end, it’s better to have a species that can thrive on the site than one that you like, but is just barely hanging on.

ASCG: Would it be a good idea for maple producers to walk through their sugar bush and mark the trees that should be transplanted to a field or another parcel in the near future?

MC: Absolutely! Sugar maples and red maples have a reproductive strategy of establishing a large seedling bank. However, very few of those seeds make it to maturity. As a result, it’s better to move those seedlings from high-density places to places where there are shortages, since they can be used for regeneration. Ideally, the goal is to have about 250 taps per hectare. And of course, walking through your maple grove to prospect in any season is always a good idea.

For more tips and details on how to successfully establish your sugar bush, check out the full interview online on our website!

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