Sap harvest and syrup processing activities – April 9 to 15, 2016
It has been a long and rewarding maple syrup season across all Ontario this year for many producers. Sap harvest in southern areas, west to east, has now finished. Many central and mid-season areas are also finishing up their processing season during this past week and previous weekend. Fresh sap is still being harvested April 14 in north areas of Grey / Bruce, Haliburton and Lanark & District counties.
Following cold wintery weather, northern area syrup producers have been getting very good sap runs this past week. Frozen sap lines finally melted and sapwood in maple trees thawed again to allow vacuum systems to resume sap collection. Some northern sugar bushes and north Ottawa Valley still have a foot of snow on the ground at the end of this week.
The long-range weather forecast for northern regions predicts that very warm weather will prevail during the coming weekend and week ahead. Warm weather will advance dormant buds quickly on sugar maples to end the sap harvest season for 2016. There may be another sap run or two this weekend and early next week in northern regions before buddy off-flavours in sap occur.
The maple industry reports that no empty bulk storage containers for syrup are available. Storage has reached capacity at many syrup operations this year. Remember, if you do encounter buddy off-flavour syrup, don’t try to blend the bad flavour out by adding the bad syrup to a perfectly good barrel of syrup. The result will be a full barrel of ruined syrup. It is best to discard off-flavour syrup.
Plantations for sugar maple orchards and alternative tree syrups
Planting maple trees for the purpose of making maple syrup is increasing slowly in Ontario, mainly in southern areas where farmland is available for various projects. The better the quality of soil, its fertility and natural drainage, the faster the trees will grow and establish to tapping maturity. Management practices will also determine how fast a new orchard will grow.
The only option for farmers to participate in commercial tree-food production to produce tree nuts or fruit is to plant an orchard, or purchase an existing orchard. Unlike traditional sugar bushes, where regeneration of future crop trees occurs from within the sugar bush, orchards are typically regenerated on a block-by-block plan. Between 15 to 20 percent of commercial orchards are typically in a constant state of renewal as block plantings to sustain annual food production. Maple orchards may operate this way too.
Plantations also offer the opportunity for landowners to produce alternative tree syrups that are not considered traditional syrups. Examples of alternative tree syrups include black walnut, butternut, white birch and yellow birch trees.
The methods for collecting sap and processing sap into syrup utilize the same equipment as maple syrup production. The concentration of sugar in sap is typically not as high as sugar concentrations found in sugar maple trees, however it is still worth the effort to make syrup.
Various common practices that are used to establish commercial fruit and tree nut orchards in Ontario may be useful, or interesting, for maple syrup producers who are planning to establish maple orchards, or orchards for alternative tree syrups.
For example, there is a new butternut orchard planted in eastern Ontario, with 1500 trees and counting, which will eventually be utilized for production of unique butternut syrup. Wild butternut trees are regulated as an endangered species in Ontario, however butternut plantations that are established by the landowner can be managed for wood or syrup production. Technical assistance with this butternut project has been provided by Dr. Michael Farrell of Cornell University, New York.
The weekly Ontario maple production report will be reduced to updates occurring one or two times per month during summer and fall.