Past two weeks summary
The maple syrup season may have gotten off to a late start this year, but the past two weeks have provided weather conditions that have been just right for frequent sap runs. All areas of the province were in production these past two weeks, from early southwestern and Niagara areas to late northern regions. Moderate to large volumes of sap have been processed repeatedly into syrup to keep up with the flow of new sap.
In southwestern and southern areas, many operations report they have produced equivalent to, or better than the provincial average of 1.1 litres of syrup per tap, and are still boiling fresh sap. Volumes ranging from 1.5 to 2.0 litres syrup per tap are the highest reported at operations having new tight vacuum systems. Colour class includes mainly Amber syrup so far with some Golden. Dark syrup is now being processed this week. Sap sugar concentration has dropped down to 1.3 ⁰Brix on soft maple, 1.5 to 1.7 ⁰Brix of sugar maples.
Grey-Bruce reports up to 15 boils have occurred so far, mostly Amber syrup with excellent maple flavour, crop yield ranges from .75 to over 1.1 litres syrup per tap.
Prince Edward County reports an above average syrup yield this year, 15 boils so far, and sap sugar concentration was still high at 2.5 ⁰Brix. Maple trees observed have extra-large dormant buds this winter since December and are expected to bud out quickly as warming continues.
Haliburton and Kawartha reported a syrup crop ranging from .6 to .9 litres syrup per tap early in the week, mainly Amber syrup with exceptionally good maple flavour, sap sugar remains high at 2.4+ ⁰Brix.
Northern regions of Algonquin, Algoma and Manitoulin Island reported early in the week .4 to .6 litres syrup per tap are processed so far, sap sugar concentration is 2.5 to 3.0 ⁰Brix. Deep snow has hampered sap harvest north of Parry Sound including Manitoulin Island and the Ottawa Valley. Vacuum tubing and occasionally drop lines and spiles were fully buried in snow and had to be cleared using shovels and muscle over many kilometers of tubing, to allow sap in lines to thaw and flow.
Damage to sap tubing by squirrels and coyotes is a common occurrence this year, tubing repair and maintenance has been testing the patience of many producers.
Sap flow forecast
In early southern areas, sap harvest is expected to end this week before the weekend. Buddy sap will likely appear by the coming weekend, soft maple tree buds are now large and breaking dormancy.
In mid-season areas up to Parry Sound, Peterborough and south Ottawa areas, producers can also check fresh sap and syrup for buddy off-flavours as day time and nighttime temperatures will be warm and pushing bud growth.
Late season areas should be good for more sap harvest, hopefully for at least another week. Air temperatures are expected to warm, however lots of deep snow cover will help keep the buds on maple trees dormant.
Preserving maple syrup quality
To preserve the quality of maple syrup, syrup should be hot-packed and sealed into retail containers to kill spoilage organisms. Mold and fermentation can ruin the syrup quickly where hot-packing procedures are lacking.
Syrup can be hot-packed into new clean containers at a temperature of 85 – 90 ⁰C (185 – 190 ⁰F). Glass containers often require preheating prior to hot filling to ensure the hot syrup does not cool down too quickly, therefore not killing spoilage organism. Avoid heating syrup hotter than 90 ⁰C (190 ⁰F) to prevent clouding of syrup, due to precipitation of fine solid particles, and the need to re-filter the syrup.
After tightly securing caps, the hot containers should be turned on their side or inverted back into the original cardboard shipping box for ten to fifteen minutes to let the hot syrup sterilize the inner cap and neck of containers. After the inverted treatment, the containers can be spread out to cool down. If the sealed containers remain hot for too long the syrup can continue to cook inside the retail containers leading to stack burn.
Maple syrup quality can also be preserved by freezing or refrigerating the syrup in retail containers. Note: hot-packing is necessary to assure shelf-life quality after thawing frozen syrup followed by storage at room temperature. Freezing does not kill spoilage organisms.
Funding opportunities for maple syrup producers and the maple industry
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) is a five-year federal-provincial-territorial initiative to strengthen the agriculture, agri-food, and agri-based products sector and increase its competitiveness, prosperity and sustainability. See the link at: https://ontarioprogramguides.net
Upcoming application intake dates for CAP project categories are available from the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association website ontariosoilcrop.org or by email CAP@ontariosoilcrop.org or by phone at 1-800-265-9751.
The maple industry could benefit from the CAP program in many ways, so put on your thinking CAPs!
Winter duration study
A recent research project on Winter Climate Change in the Northern Forest was conducted by researchers at the universities of New Hampshire, Maine, and Winnipeg (A. Contosta et al.). Researchers utilized winter weather records for the past one hundred years, collected at 37 weather stations located across the northeastern US and eastern Canada. They plotted the duration of winters based on freezing temperatures and snow cover. The following diagrams show graphic results of part of the study, and a possible future projection surrounding the Great Lakes region.
In this study, winter is defined as: Winter is a period characterized by sustained low temperatures below freezing and snow accumulation that together regulate ecological processes and the services they provide, both during winter and throughout the rest of the year.