Ontario Maple Syrup Production Report, March 8, 2019

Previous two weeks summary

The extended deep-freezing conditions over the past two weeks has stopped sap harvest and maple syrup processing in early regions of southwestern Ontario and Niagara. Central mid-season areas and northern areas are still on track for a normal start to the sap harvest season.

The snow is deep this year in northern and Ottawa Valley sugar bushes and producers have been occupied with digging out buried mainlines.  Tap installation in many sugar bushes was progressing well until the deep cold made the risk of bark splitting too high.

Very strong damaging winds occurred February 24 to 26 in most southern area sugar bushes causing a significant amount of limb breakage and damage to underlying vacuum tubing and sap harvest equipment.  Entry into a sugar bush or woodlot during strong wind events is too dangerous, risking injury or worse consequences.  Since the wind storm ended, two weeks of frozen trees has allowed syrup producers to make repairs to damaged vacuum tubing while not missing any sap run events.

Producers in early areas report that sap ran for three consecutive days, February 21 to 23, prior to the wind storm and freeze up, and the first syrup of the 2019 season was processed. Golden and very light Amber syrup was processed.  Sap sugar content was 2.3 to 2.6 ⁰ Brix, which is above normal for early sap runs.

The forecast

Thawing daytime conditions are finally returning to many regions of the province March 9 and 10 and continuing throughout much of the coming week.  Where trees have been deeply frozen, several days of thawing conditions will be required to encourage sapwood to thaw and sap to flow.  In sugar bushes that have completed tap installation, the first good sap flows are expected to occur.

Tap installation can resume when the temperature of sapwood is above – 5 ⁰C or thawed to prevent splitting of bark above and below the tap hole after the spile is seated into the tap hole.  Install spiles gently, avoid using excessive force with the tapping hammer, just enough to provide a snug firm seal in tap holes.

In Canada, where isopropyl alcohol (IPA) was used to sanitize sap tubing, maple researchers recommend that all sap tubing be rinsed with potable water prior to sap harvest, or, producers can utilize the first good sap flows to rinse the sap tubing, discarding the first sap.

Maple researchers in Canada recommend that maple sap tubing should be rinsed with clean potable water or fresh sap prior to collection of sap for processing into syrup, regardless of the approved cleaning and sanitation products and methods used for vacuum tube equipment.

Isopropyl alcohol is federally registered in Canada as an effective sanitizer in sap tube maintenance that controls spoilage bacteria, yeast and fungal organisms that can establish inside tubing, potentially spoiling sap and degrading syrup quality if not properly sanitized.  IPA is not currently registered for use as a sap tube sanitizer in the United States due to a different federal classification.

Understanding tapping and healing of maple trees

Curles sapwood samples

Drilling tap holes - healthy shavings

Drop line length - good vs short

Unsustainable south localized tapping

Old tapped cross section


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