Ontario Maple Syrup Production Report for April 9, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and to respect physical distancing measures, all OMAFRA crop specialists are working remotely but are still available to assist you.

We will continue to support the sector’s needs by providing services via email, phone and virtual meetings where possible.  We understand these are trying times for most and so we want to assure everyone that we are continuing delivery of information in a timely manner through these alternative channels.

We will continue to provide the sector with the support we’ve always given. Thank you for your understanding.

Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

Ontario maple syrup is ready!

Are you eager to purchase fresh Ontario maple syrup?!  This year’s maple syrup has exceptional flavour and quality!  Contact a local maple syrup producer to arrange for a safe and convenient way to order, or have delivered to your home, maple syrup and other specialty maple products.

The Ontario Maple Syrup Producer’s Association website provides an on-line map that locates sugar bush operations across the province having direct farm sales.  It is best to contact them in advance.  See www.ontariomaple.com .  Select ‘where to buy’.

Sap harvest and syrup processing update

In later northern regions, sap harvest will continue for at least another week, likely longer in Algonquin, Ottawa Valley and Algoma areas, including Thunder Bay depending on the stage of bud development.  Frequent daily freeze and thaw conditions are forecast into next week, so sap flow will keep producers very busy processing new syrup.

Bud development will progress faster as warmer daytime temperatures become more frequent and nighttime freezing ends.  Northern syrup producers will begin watching later in April for the first appearance of buddy off-flavour to signal the end of their sap harvest and processing season.  The appearance of buddy off-flavour occurs naturally and is the signal from the trees that growth of new shoots and leaves has begun.

In early and mid-season southern regions, maple syrup production has come to an end for 2020. Dormant buds have begun to grow, and soft maples are in bloom. Sugar maple buds are elongating and will flower soon in southern areas.

The yield of maple syrup has been plentiful or high in many areas of the province with representation of all colour classes; Golden, Amber, Dark and Very Dark. Where sap harvest has concluded, many producers were able to reach the provincial average yield or better of 1.1 litres syrup per tap. Maple flavour is excellent this year.

Prepare sap tubing for summer

Ideally, spiles should be removed from maple trees before new leaves emerge and spring growth begins, to encourage tap holes to heal over and close with new sapwood and bark. Clean and rinse vacuum tubing with potable water while the inner surfaces are still moist for easier removal of the sugary residue. If allowed to dry, the sugary residue can be far more difficult to remove.

After thorough cleaning, vacuum tubing can treated with a sanitizer, such as isopropyl alcohol (IPA), to prevent mold growth during summer.  Purchase isopropyl alcohol that is intended for use in sap tubing from a maple equipment dealer.  Isopropyl alcohol is federally approved for use in Canada as a sap tubing sanitizer.

Pesticide applicator certificate extension notice

The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks has announced that if you have a Grower Pesticide Safety Course certificate that expires on or after January 1, 2020 and you have not been able to complete the training and exam due to the COVID-19 outbreak, your certificate will remain valid until December 31, 2020.  New growers will need to access the online courses that are currently available through the Ontario Pesticide Education Program (OPEP) for other arrangements.  OPEP continues to look at options to improve their online course options and to do testing online.

For more information contact,

Susan Kelner ( skelner@uoguelph.ca ) or Lynn Van Maanen (lvanma01@uoguelph.ca) Ontario Pesticide Education Program, University of Guelph. @ONspraysafety

Is your handling and processing equipment up to grade?  Food grade, that is.

Ontario Regulation 119/11 requires that all food handling and processing equipment that directly contacts food be constructed of food grade materials. This includes fresh sap, sap concentrate, syrup and other maple food products.  The end of sap harvest and syrup processing can be a convenient time to identify any non-food grade equipment that needs replacement or equipment that requires repair before the next harvest season.

Food and non Food

Pure maple syrup is considered a safe natural food and sweetener as far as food safety is concerned.  It is understood that quality maple products are being produced and provided to consumers using standards that have been established by the provincial and international maple syrup industry.

Unfortunately, there are still small to medium size producers who do not actively participate in industry meetings or technical sessions, are not members of the provincial association and may not be aware of modern production standards. We can all work together to identify and educate everyone involved, to ensure that any equipment that is not suited for commercial food production be removed from use.

Check for Lead

Pest Management in the sugar bush – defoliating pests

Defoliating insect pests of sugar bushes, woodlots, commercial orchards and tree nurseries can cause a range of injury to trees each year, often developing in hot spot areas around the province. Gypsy moth and Forest tent caterpillar are two prominent defoliating insect pests of sugar bushes, along with several other defoliator species that can occasionally become active and noticeable.

During summer of 2019, many sugar bush managers and woodlot owners observed an increased amount of activity by Gypsy moth. While defoliation by Gypsy moth was light in most regions, the activity noticed was an abundance of white female moths flying around during July and August depositing large quantities of tan coloured patches of eggs on the bark of host trees.

Gypsy moth seasonal summary

Gypsy moth past activity

The eggs of Gypsy moth usually hatch during May, the precise date depends on the accumulation of warmth as spring progresses.  Just like sap harvest, egg hatch of insect pests has early and late season areas.  With an abundance of eggs hatching this spring, we can expect to see varying amounts of defoliation as the larvae mature to older stages which consume larger quantities of leaf area.  The amount of defoliation that occurs won’t be known until later June to mid-July.  Also, there may be significant pest control provided by natural predators and naturally occurring diseases of Gypsy moth larvae.  For example, the fungus Entomophaga maimaiga is a natural disease of pest species of lepidoptera larvae that can significantly help to manage outbreaks.

Gypsy moth stages

If moderate to severe defoliation occurs, remember that healthy sugar maple trees have stores of energy in the form of starch inside the branches, trunk and roots that can be utilized by the trees in the absence of leaves to carry them over a season.  Trees can grow a partial replacement canopy if defoliation happens early enough in summer.  Therefore, where trees are healthy, defoliation is not always a panic situation.  If the trees have been stressed recently by similar defoliation, drought, flooding or by other stress events, the trees can weaken significantly and begin to die off.

Gypsy moth activity calendar

Gypsy moth defoliation may be a concern for sugar bushes that recently endured moderate to severe defoliation caused by Forest tent caterpillar during the summers of 2018 and 2019. Sugar bushes in northern Algoma areas, Quinte, Lanark & District areas sustained moderate to severe defoliation by Forest tent caterpillar. A third season of defoliation due to Gypsy moth larvae will create a stressful situation for sustaining tree health. Let’s hope for adequate rainfall and no drought this summer and some help from natural predators.  Some sugar bush managers have opted to pre-arrange for an aerial application of federally approved insecticide by a commercial aerial operator.

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