The 2018 maple syrup production season is completed now in Ontario and producers are busy cleaning sap tubing and processing equipment. Ontario producers are reminded to please complete the Maple Production Survey that is organized and distributed by the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association. Every completed survey will increase the accuracy of the final maple syrup industry production report for the 2018 season.
Thank you to the many maple syrup producers who contributed sap harvest and syrup quality updates throughout the season for the preparation of this report, the Ontario Maple Syrup Production Report.
Many producers find this time of year is best to make repairs while the end-of-season condition of vacuum tubing and other equipment is still fresh in their minds. Modern sap tubing remains permanently installed in the sugar bush during its 10 to 15 year lifespan, where annual maintenance and cleaning will help ensure the tubing performs best during each future harvest.
Sugar bushes and woodlots that were defoliated severely last summer by Forest Tent Caterpillar, Gypsy moth or Cankerworm larvae, farmers and landowners are reminded that overwintering eggs that were deposited last year typically will hatch during late April and May, following a natural biological cycle.
Eggs of defoliating spring pests will hatch first in early areas of southwestern Ontario and Niagara and hatch latest in northern regions during an average year of heat-unit accumulation. Producers who have arranged pest management plans for this coming spring for their sugar bush or woodlot are reminded to contact service providers in advance, to help coordinate area applications of federally registered pest control product.
Cleaning and sanitizing sap tubing
Sap tubing can be washed out with clean potable water to remove as much of the sugary residue as possible that builds up on the inner surface. The sugary biofilm layers can be difficult to remove completely, however, are much easier to remove while they are still moist. If allowed to dry out, biofilms can become hardened or cement-like and difficult to re-wet and remove.
Cleaning followed by sanitizing sap tubing will ensure the lines are as clean as possible after harvest, and will help prevent mould from forming inside the tubes during the summer. If not cleaned adequately, layers of residue and mould inside the lines can lead to a reduction in sap quality and syrup flavour in future harvest seasons.
Producers who are using isopropyl alcohol (IPA) as a sap tube sanitizer can follow the established guidelines on proper application procedures that are developed by maple researchers at Centre ACER in Quebec. Isopropyl alcohol is a highly effective sap tube sanitizer and is federally registered for use in Canada.
Only purchase isopropyl alcohol from maple equipment dealers who supply approved formulations. As a controlled product, it is therefore important to respect the label instructions, to ensure the maple industry can continue to use isopropyl alcohol to sanitize maple sap tubing.
Preventing mould in maple syrup
Recent maple research in Ontario and the United States into improving hot-packing techniques for retail containers, has determined that successful hot-packing can be a challenge for many producers, whether they are experienced or new to syrup production. Some producers are very good at, and consistent with hot-packing.
Since maple syrup can be a perishable food to spoilage organisms, an alternative method to ensure that quality is maintained is to refrigerate or freeze maple syrup. Syrup can be kept cold in bulk tanks, in smaller bulk food-grade containers for example, 4 to 10 litre sizes, and in retail containers that have already been hot-packed. A number of producers have already adopted refrigeration and freezing to guarantee quality.
Planting trees from seed
Tree nurseries are very busy during late winter and early spring, germinating seeds of trees and shrubs, grafting improved cultivars onto rootstock and rooting cloned cuttings. Nursery operators try to predict in advance, which species of trees and shrubs consumers will be most interested in buying. Profitability can be tricky each year.
Landowners may be interested to learn tree planting techniques to grow their own trees from locally sourced tree seeds, or a favourite non-invasive species. Some may find this a relaxing hobby, to watch a new ‘free tree’ come to life.