Ontario Maple Syrup Production Report on April 2, 2015

Sap flow and syrup crop summary for the past week

Buds on sugar maple trees remained dormant this past week in all areas of the province.  Sap sugar concentrations have increased ranging from 2.5 to 3+ ⁰Brix.

In early southwestern regions, producers report they have boiled 75 to 100% of an average syrup crop.  Light, medium and amber grades are reported.  The weather forecast is predicting that temperatures will become too warm for sap flow in earliest areas.  The end of next week, April 11th, may mark the end of the syrup processing season if sugar maple buds begin to swell.  Producers in early areas can be taste-testing all fresh sap for the first indication of buddy off-flavours.  Once buddy sap begins to appear, the chemistry of sap has changed and does not revert back to good sap, even where freezing conditions return.

Sugar bush S N and bud

Photo 1, 2 & 3.   Little snow remains in southern area sugar bushes with a number of good sap flows this past week.  Centre photo – sugar maple buds were still dormant and not swelling yet on April 1, compared to a freshly sharpened No. 2 pencil.  Right photo – snow is still deep in northern areas with snow just beginning to melt back from trunks.

Maple buds Wild Leek emerging

Photo 4 & 5. Buds of red maple (left) and soft maple (centre) are swelling in early southwestern areas. Producers tapping these species can taste-test each run of fresh sap for the first buddy off-flavours.  Right photo – for those who are fortunate to have them, wild leeks appear towards the end of the maple syrup season, an early sign of spring growth.

Producers in central and northern regions have begun sap collection and should be good to boil for at least the next two or three weeks.  Grey/Bruce Counties report 50 to 60% of a syrup crop so far, boiling off mainly light grades with medium syrup showing this week.  Filtering niter has been a challenge this year.  A good foot of snow remains in the bush.

Quinte and Prince Edward County report they have boiled 15 to 40% of a syrup crop so far, mainly light and medium grades. Eastern has 20 to 25% of medium and amber syrup having excellent robust maple flavour.  Pancake houses have been very busy.

Powassan and Algonquin areas report they have boiled 20 to 30% of a syrup crop by mid-week in operations having modern, tight vacuum collection.  Mainly light and medium colour grades with excellent maple flavour.  St. Joseph Island has 25% syrup crop so far, beginning with light, then medium, and this past week has reverted back to extra-light syrup.  Deep snow remains in northern sugar bushes and will help to keep the air cool and buds dormant.

Cold temperatures in the north over the coming weekend will cause another freeze up.  The weather forecast for next week in late regions predicts better freeze-thaw cycles, which hopefully will provide larger quantities of sap for north area syrup producers.

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Photo 6. Recognizing each unique off-flavour in finished maple syrup can usually identify the cause of the problem.   Centre ACER in Quebec has developed a kit that contains actual samples of common off-flavours of syrup that can help producers verify problems and learn the remedies to prevent it from re-occurring.

Batch codes and traceability for maple syrup

Food safety continues to be a priority for the Ontario and international maple syrup industry.  It is important to be able to quickly locate maple syrup and other maple products after they have been sold, in the unfortunate event that a product recall is necessary.  

Keeping detailed records of each production run of syrup, also called a batch or lot, is important.  If a recall is  necessary, only the batch that was identified by food inspectors as a problem will be recalled, and not necessarily the entire inventory of syrup.

Records and batches

Photo 7.  An example of production records and batch code tracking for maple syrup.  Each batch or lot, can be traced to where it was sold.

If a particular contaminant is a concern, or documented proof of safe syrup is desired, producers can proactively arrange with an accredited lab to have their syrup tested.  Test results are kept confidential to assist a producer to correct a problem if it exists.

Bar codes 3

Photo 8.  Producers use various methods to code retail containers of syrup.  Codes can be a simple hand written number system, a coded label, or a high-tech bar code that can be used to track inventory and location of the product. As long as the producer understands the meaning of the coding system for traceability, the method is acceptable.

Bulk label and Cold Storage

Photo 9 & 10.  Stainless steel or food-grade plastic drums have detailed labels affixed for traceability, and indicate Brix and colour grade.  Right photo – a few producers have constructed cold storages to ensure the quality of syrup is maintained in bulk drums and in retail containers.

Invasive pests and biodiversity

Invasive non-native insect pests, diseases and plants cause millions of dollars of damage to forests, commercial orchard industries and traditional agriculture.  Governments and industries spend increasing resources to attempt to eradicate, slow down the spread, or manage each pest situation as it occurs.

Emerald ash borer has decimated ash trees as it moves north and east from its original entry point in Windsor, Ontario.  While not a direct threat to the maple syrup industry, emerald ash borer has severely reduced a prominent tree species from sugar bushes and forests.  

Loss of a significant species, like ash, is a blow to biodiversity and results in a reduction of the overall ecological health of forests.  For example, with the loss of ash, a sugar bush may become more of a single-species monocrop, becoming more susceptible to other stressors.

Ash Borer and cut

Photo 11 & 12.  Ash trees killed by Emerald Ash Borer are being removed to keep the sugar bush safe for people.

Forest researchers in Michigan and Ontario have recently released several tiny parasitic wasps that specifically attack Emerald Ash Borer larvae, and hopefully, will begin to balance future threats by Emerald Ash Borer.

The recent second infestation of Asian Longhorn Beetle in Mississauga, Ontario has been removed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and follow-up surveys are ongoing to ensure it is gone.  ALHB is a direct threat to maple resources in North America.  We cannot be complacent that ALHB is permanently eradicated.  

Asian Longhorn Beetle 3 pics

Photo 13 & 14.  An adult Asian Longhorn Beetle is compared to a spile, showing tunnel damage by larvae in sugar maple wood.  Centre photo – extensive tunnelling damage by larvae in wood of Manitoba maple.  Right photo – the exit hole made by an adult when it emerges in summer is round and a little larger than a 5/16 inch tap hole, or the same diameter as a 7/16 inch tap hole.  Keep a close watch for ALHB in your woodlot and sugar bush.  Report suspicious looking symptoms.

For a complete update on the health of Ontario forests, plan to attend the annual Forest Health Review meeting held each October, organized by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

 

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