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Sugar bush in The Peace (eastern slopes of the Rockies: foehn winds/chinooks)

 
Posts: 422
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I am doing this out of order.  I should read all the sugar maple article on Permies first.

But first, a facetious question: do teenagers that start out as used car sales people end up selling trees?

Sorry, not telling people about things related to planting trees costs a lot of wasted planning and work.

I've seen universities in Idaho interested in planting sugar maples, it wouldn't surprise me if people in Montana are looking at this as well.  God forbid some idiot gets a patent for any of this.  Uggh!  I'm trained in engineering, not  farming, silviculture or whatever.

I'm very close to 56N and Dawson Creek, BC (where the Alaska Highway begins)..  And I am on a north facing slope, just south of Dawson Creek.

You can go to the tree store, and buy a tree.  A local tree store, has sold sugar maples.  They looked to be over 6 feet to me.  They talked about blight resistance; I'm sorry I haven't read anything about a blight in sugar maples.  It would not surprise me if one existed.  I've bought bare root sugar maples maybe 12 inch tall, no mention of blight (or resistance).  Only two, both now dead.  I learned that an aspirin can cure a deer ache for a maple.  It really annoys me when governments seem to support deer populations one or more orders of magnitude (base 10) higher than the local "forest" can sustain.  A deer is a herbivore, supported by governments, which preys on farmers.

There are 2 ways to get sugar maples, you can have seeds germinate on your land and grow into trees, or you can buy seedlings (or small trees) and plant them.  A sugar maple is a fairly large tree, or can be.  There are a couple of trees of similar mature size, which can withstand shade as well as a sugar maple.  No similar size tree can withstand more shade, and only some significantly smaller plants can withstand more shade.  And this is the key to how sugar maple becomes a major component of a forest.  One thing is needed, no fires.  In the absence of fire, a reasonable population of sugar maples can build up on the ground, and then when presented with a reasonable canopy opening, spring up to "take it".

There are some "typical competitors" for these canopy openings, and for at least some of them, the sugar maple has allelopathic components in its roots to give it an advantage (some birch).  Likewise, there are some parts of a sugar maple forest which can emit things from their roots which depress sugar maples (goldenrod is one plant that has this).  So, chemical warfare is part of the sugar maple secession scheme.

I think the fungi in the form of ecto and endo mycorrihzae (sp?) are also a big part of how "sugar bush" operates.  Even without the fungi, sugar maples are known to move water around: near ground level to deeper, deeper to near surface happen, they might move water laterally too.  Among other things, sugar maples (I believe) can extend far beyond the drip line of the canopy.

----

If a sugar maple seed falls in the forest, it lands in forest litter.  Apparently if a sugar maple seed falls in the forest, if it hasn't germinated and started to become a tree in a year; it probably never will.  Apparently about the time the roots from a sugar maple seedling which germinated in the forest start to reach mineral soil, the seedling is probably in the range of 4-6 feet tall.  And at about this same time, if an opening in the canopy happens, the seedling may be in a position to try and "take" that opening.

I believe this has a bunch of coincidences in it.  Forest litter is probably quite nutritious.  I suspect most nutrients in forest litter are easily captured and used.  Forest litter is low density, so while it is a good source of a small amount of nutrients, it is probably not a good source of a lot of nutrients.  Unless fungi want to help.  I don't know if fungi do help at this stage.  It may be that some sugar maple seedlings decide to try and take a canopy opening without have access to mineral soil.  It seems to be believed that they will likely fail (and die).

If a sugar maple seedling has contact with mineral soil and a canopy opening happens, it could try and take the opening.  I suspect this is not a sure thing either.   It seems hard to believe that just having contact with mineral soil is sufficient.

In planting trees, we are not supposed to augment the soil of the hole.  It is said that the roots will tend to circle around the augmented soil and never go out into the other soil  There might be exceptions, I expect the exceptions point to soils of high loam content 9but probably not exclusively loam).  My soil is predominantly clay, and even just cutting the hole with a shovel (polish the walls) is supposed to be reason for the roots not to venture beyond the hole.

But, switching back to the sugar maple seedling, if roots can't make the transition from native root environment (forest litter) to anything else, how do sugar maple roots get into the mineral soil?  It is possible that some mechanisms whereby the sugar maple roots enter the mineral soil are accidental, but it could be that some follow a logical progression of some kind, such as having fungi of a particular kind in the soil.  Some of the accidents whereby tree roots enter the soil, could also be due to fungi.

----

Well, maybe instead of planting seed, you decide to go and buy seedlings (bare root or otherwise).  They will be planted in mineral soil, not litter.  There may be loam present, there may be things which are like loam present (like compost).  Does this mean that our seedlings will immediately start to grow taller?  I don't think so.

When you first plant most trees, people talk about transplant shock.  Why is the part of the tree I can see, either doing nothing or very little?  By and large, the tree is trying to get the root system going.  The best example for this I think is southern yellow (long leaf?) pine.  The seed germinates, and what pops its head above ground doesn't look like a pine tree.  It looks like a blade of grass.  It will spend the next N years, just looking like a blade of grass.  But below ground, it is building roots.  And probably building communications with fungi in the ground.

Trees are like ice bergs.  It might be nice to think that half of the tree is visible (what is above the ground), but I think the amount below ground is typically more than 1/2.  And that is just considering cells with the same DNA as the rest of the tree.  If the tree is forming relationships with fungi in the soil, the mass of this tree/fungi biomass below the soil could dwarf the mass of the tree above ground.  And there is no reason  to not think that this fungi communication network is not connecting that sugar maple with all the other species in the ground.  A sugar maple may not be able to speak elderberry; but a sugar maple can probably speak many kinds of fungi, and many of those fungi know how to talk elderberry.  And I ran across a paper which looked at planting seedlings close to mature trees of the same species.  Then they tried to trace where the nutrients in the seedling came from.  They tended to come from the mature tree (probably thanks to fungi).

----

You don't want to get a bunch of organic matter (be it peat moss, wood chips or ...) and till it into the soil.  Or at least, not in bright daylight, as any fungi or bacteria illuminated by the sun will likely die of sunburn.  And most "organic matter" requires too much nitrogen to be "digested" and incorporated into the soil.  In planting trees, splash the roots with fungi (fungal ea, magic powder, ...).  Maybe mix up some fungal tea in the next year or so, and inject it down to where roots are likely (stop if you hit an obstruction and try another place).  To inject something like a fungal tea into the "root ball" is directed placement.  And, it probably doesn't do a lot of good.  You have to be lucky for directed placement to hit something of interest without some way to "see" into the ground.

But, if you inject this fungal tea when things are fairly dry, there are probably lots of pore spaces in the soil filled with air.  Apply a fairly large amount of water to the region of where this fungal tea was injected.  It will percolate down into the soil, and at some point pick up the direct injection fluids and carry them beyond the injection site in a directed flood which is dispersive.  Given enough water, the concentration of fungal tea present at the "final surface" of the flood will be zero.  All the material will have been dispersed.  This doesn't guarantee that any of your fungal tea, got to visit a tree root you wanted it to.  Or any tree root.  But it is about the best you can do.  And the ground probably needed the water anyway.

So, keep adding mulch (straw, wood chips, ...) to the ground (not touching the tree trunks).  It will continue to make life difficult for weed seeds at the ground surface to get to sunlight.  It will continue to hold water, to give to the soil.  The mulch will break down, and move organic matter (humis) into the soil.

Want to do more?  I will say tillage radish (a kind of daikon radish), but there are other plants which can do the same.  A tillage radish seed probably doesn't want to deal with 12 inches of wood chips before it finds soil.  Pull away a bunch of wood chips to get the tillage radish seed close to "soil", and let it go.  Hopefully it grows ti 24+ inches into the soil, dies and leaves behind a bunch of nutrients.  And a hole for some wood chips and other organic matter to fall into.  And an easy path for water from a rainfall to quickly get 2 feet down.  In growing, the tillage radish just does a gentle squeeze on the ground around it.  It may break roots or stretch fungi connections to the breaking point, but it is much less likely than most other ways to get a 2 inch hole that wide into the ground.

----

There is the dripline that your plants have now, and there is the imaginary dripline that your plants will have "when done".  If you have wood chips (or whatever) to distribute, and you go past the "real" dripline a little, this isn't a problem.  The ground cover (for me, 40 year old fescue) needs to be shaded out.  Cover it with wood chips, and it will get much less light than it wants.  Some will die.

There could be land that is beyond the driplines in the future.  Maybe you start putting wood chips on them now, or maybe to strip off the sod and try to do something with the soil underneath.  Planting rhubarb is something to consider.  My pasture is fescue, and fescue may have allelpathic chemicals.  I suspect allelopathy is more common than most people suspect (which is a dumb sentence).  Fine.  You strip out a 3x3 foot chunk of sod, and you plant rhubarb to the centre.  And then you put wood chips round the rhubarb (on the bare soil) and surrounding onto the fescue bordering this rhubarb planting.  So, you come along the next year, scrape off another area of sod, into which to centre another rhubarb plant.

In doing this, we are trying to maximize how much fescue is isolated.    We are not trying to define some compact set of rhubarb plantings.  Between isolating fescue and covering everything (except the rhubarb) with wood chips, we are shading out fescue and (slowly) introducing organic matter into the soil.  But the rhubarb, will shade out all kinds of "weeds" that manage to make to through the wood chips to try and grow.

In the concept of a sugar bush, at some point you may want to plant something in the centre of one of these regions we've just been growing rhubarb in (to get rid of the fescue).  Lots of people like to eat rhubarb, not many people like to eat fescue.

----

What most people know of as a sugar bush, is romanticized.   I think it was 2009, maybe a year or so earlier.  Anyway, someone took a small sugar maple (4 inch? 6 inch?) and cut the top off it, attached a vacuum "sleeve" and started to "suck" sap out of this now beheaded sugar maple.  And it produced a _LOT_ of sap.  Good sap.  Sap far beyond what that little tree had for a root system.  The sap has to come from somewhere.  This has to be the fungi setting up the sugar maple networking system.  And so to suck sap out of a single small (beheaded) sugar maple is actually sucking sap from the collective sugar bush.  We only make one physical connection (the beheaded juvenile sugar bush).  No tubes or plumbing to run, or to add heat to stop freezing or ....  And we suck until the "signal" (something about skunkiness?) comes that it is time to stop.

Your sap comes from the volume of the root system in your sugar bush (at least for small sugar bushes).  It is likely that a large sugar bush needs to suck sap from more than one sacrificed  juvenile sugar maple.

----

If my interpretation of how I read this is close to accurate, it leaves lots of room for people to experiment.  Honey locust and black locust are not part of historical sugar bushes.  Does their presence help or hinder the sap produced?  Does having more elderberry growing in the sugar bush make a better product?

====

So, that is my introduction, which has nothing specific to the region where I live or how chinooks/foehn winds might influence things.

It has a lot about how I have processed a lot of technical articles and information about making maple syrup from the sap of sugar maples.

And I will leave this open to the floor to point out holes in my thinking.


But, given that most of the world's maple syrup supply comes from Canada, an article looking into the future following accepted climate change projections, pretty much rules out all of southern Ontario as a source of maple syrup by 2100.  This pretty much rules out all of the contiguous lower 48 as well.  Is there something there for Alaska?

======

On posting this, I will go looking at what else has been posted at Permies.  Since it s snowing here, I have other things to do as well.

Happy autumn/winter people (in the northern hemisphere).
 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 422
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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As mentioned in the top posting, this is being done out of order.

But, it took so long to assemble, that I "timed out" to post as well.  Normally, I could suck everything out of this java or javascript thing and dump it into emacs, but lately I am havin gemacs problems as well.

If we had peach, we could have peaches and cream, if we had cream.
 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 422
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I have been looking for information about sugar maples in foehn winds (aka chinooks).  Foehn winds are common across the eastern slopes of the Rockies, they can have multiple names.  But growing sugar maples in those places is by and large not known (as near as I can tell).

It seems that, that the "mountain" chain along the USA eastern edge (Adirondacks ?) does in places develop foehn winds.

I wrote to someone who had written a published article about tapping sugar maples where foehn winds happen some times leeard of the Smokey Mountains, and he said "of, that's nice".

Oh well, more typing practice.

 
master pollinator
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Gordon, I have never heard of growing sugar maples as far north as you propose. Have you seen others doing this? Are they specimen trees, or are they using them for sugar?

I used to live in Southern Ontario where it's very easy to grow them. But I think the farthest north I ever saw them growing naturally, was somewhere around North Bay. I was interested in buying a maple forest there, in the hope of managing it for lumber. Turns out that just about every maple tree grown that far north has a hollow centre. They call it black heart. So it's only good for syrup and low-grade firewood.
 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 422
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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There is little information on foehn winds in the continental USA where sugar maples grow.  And it may be because they cannot change temperatures enough to make much of a difference.

The strongest foehn wind (we call them chinooks) I experienced, had noon temperatures of about -30C and temperatures about midnight as about +5C.  And with the warmth comes wind.  And a warm wind that has little humidity can melt, evaporate or sublimate a lot of water/snow; or "eat snow".

A chinook can blow in, stay a few hours, and then go away.  Or it can hang around for a few days.  And the time of day when the maximum temperature is reached, need not be anywhere near mid afternoon.  Depending on the aspect of your land and trees that may be on neighbours lands to the east, south or west; you can often find damage to trees (even supposedly "native" trees) caused by the sun warming the bark enough that sap flows, and then at night (especially if there are no clouds) temperatures frop below freezing and the bark and near surface layers of wood can get damaged.  Even killed.

The chinooks typically come from the SW here, so we can also get damage on the SW sides of trees from chinooks coming in.  The damage looks similar (the same?); tree surface gets too warm, sap starts to flow, temperatures drop and sap freezes

In any event, sugar maples can suffer similar damage.  Especially if they are near the edge of a forest or near a large opening of some kind..

Apparently the peak production (litre per tap) for sugar maples has historically been around 43N.  And being so much further south, the sun is probably quite high in the sky when spring arrives.  So there really isn't a lot of way to protect sugar maples from this, other than to have other kinds of trees situated to shade the sugar maple (mostly trunks) from winter sun.

I am far enough north, that the sun is much lower in the sky.  And I live on a north facing slope.  So I can put taller trees to the south (which is uphill as well), and have a reasonable expectation of shading the sugar maples downhill from winter sun.  But for this to be effective, those trees can't be deciduous.  I am opting for nut pines.  And I am setting the nut pines on a line such that they will deflect cinook winds away from the sugar bush.

This protection is meant to be for winter (only).  As spring comes along, the sun rises higher and higher in the sky, and so the sugar maples will start to receive sunlight.  And the warmth can start to come from the west or NW (or other directions), and this chinook windbreak loses its meaning.

But, this is all just a theory.
 
Gordon Haverland
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Gordon, I have never heard of growing sugar maples as far north as you propose. Have you seen others doing this? Are they specimen trees, or are they using them for sugar?

I used to live in Southern Ontario where it's very easy to grow them. But I think the farthest north I ever saw them growing naturally, was somewhere around North Bay. I was interested in buying a maple forest there, in the hope of managing it for lumber. Turns out that just about every maple tree grown that far north has a hollow centre. They call it black heart. So it's only good for syrup and low-grade firewood.



For quite a while, there have been maples in SE Manitoba.  Which is probably about the same latitude as your mention of North Bay.

There are people planting isolated sugar maples in Dawson Creek.  And the latest (2011) zone map has Dawson Creek as Zone 3b.  There is some thinking that we could even be Zone 4 (except the last 3 winters have been unusual on the cold side).  I haven't run across anyone thinking of a sugar bush in the Peace Country.  There are a lot of people who talk about what to do with south facing slopes here, which I think is the wrong thing for sugar maples.

I hadn't heard of black heart.  I will have to look into that.  It's better if trees can multitask.  Being good furniture wood and having syrup is a good thing.

Hopefully I can think my way around a lot of the problems, but I am sure that I will miss some things.
 
Gordon Haverland
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Hmm, had problems sleeping last night.

I thought there might have been work to plant sugar maples in Scandanavia (Sweden was my best guess).  There are hints that people are planting "specimen trees" in Sweden (and possibly elsewhere), but very few hard statements.

There are some people in Sweden who are looking at climate change and what is going to happen to their forest, and they are seeing problems.  Left to their own devices, the "native" plants in the forest are not showing enough ability to adapt to climate change and survive.  So, they are considering the idea that bringing in "foreign" trees may allow for the combination of native and foreign to adapt faster, than either alone.  I suppose another idea is to bring in something invasive, and it just wipes out all the native stuff.  I believe the forest in Hungary was an example of this, where black locust has replaced most of the trees which used to grow there.

I tried looking for Baltic in terms of sugar bushes, and again found nothing.  Looking sugar bushes in Europe, did bring up a hit.  It seems that there are some "sugar maple groves" in Estonia (possibly elsewhere).  Nearly all of Estonia is above 58N.  Estonia is likely to be warmer than where I am, and it should have more hours of sunlight than we do.  I think where I am has about 2.5 hours per day more sunlight at the summer solstice than 43N in syrup country.

Apparently some people are assigning partial attribution to decline of the sugar maple industry in the NE continental USA, Quebec, Ontario and miscellaneous other places bordering that region to other things.  Climate change is not the only item on the agenda.  Pollution is mentioned.

Another factor is earthworms.  Someone has the idea that we lost all native earthworms in the last ice age, and the European or Asian earthworms we now have, are changing the forest litter for the worse.  I don't know enough about earthworms to pick holes in that argument.  Are the Cypress Hills big enough to have been an island of earthworm viability?

The Smithsonian and other places have been looking at what is happening to biodiversity with our typically excessive populations of deer in the forest.  This could be another problem for the sugar maple.

The earthworm issue brings up this deep forest litter observation.  And my question is still relevant, if the sugar maple germinates in the forest litter, how does its root system make the transition to mineral soil?  Is it a coincidence that young sugar maples start to become successful at exploiting holes in the canopy, at about the same time was their root systems are entering mineral soil?

Sugar bushes seem to have evolved over long periods of time, in circumstances where fire was not a part of forest evolution.  It may be, that you can't just "plant" a sugar bush in a hay pasture and expect it to be successful.  If nothing else, I think you need to shade maple tree seedlings which are planted, so that they get direct sunlight less than half of the day (and probably one wants to drop intensity as well).  So perhaps you start growing trees, but you also try to produce an approximation to the forest litter, and drop seeds into that.  And it is the trees grown from seed which become the sugar bush?
 
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