The buddy sap project has been an OMSPA driven idea for several years now. Marc Curle came up with the original idea of developing an easy-to-use field test to determine if unprocessed sap collected near the end of season was still safe to make good quality syrup as opposed to buddy. The RTTC picked up this idea in its strategic planning exercise and quickly put it to the top of the list of projects as this could benefit all producers. As you know, one cannot tell if the sap chemistry has changed near the end of the syrup season by merely tasting or smelling the sap itself. It needs to be processed into syrup and if it is buddy, one has wasted all that time and fuel to make a poor quality syrup. Buddy syrup tastes like burned tootsie roll or worse. As a consequence most producers tend to stop making syrup too soon, losing the opportunity to make some very good quality dark syrup with confidence that it will not be buddy. When you throw climate change into the mix, it becomes increasing difficult to determine when the syrup season is over as our “normal” benchmarks are constantly changing.
Not all sugar bushes have the same aspect. Our sugar bush at Kemble is located on a steep south-facing slope of the Niagara Escarpment. Those trees all share the same microclimate and they will bud out at about the same time. However, many producers will have some north facing slopes, or east or west as well. With various exposure to sunlight, slope angle and varying temperatures, the maple trees will not all bud out at the same time. As such, sap coming into the sugar house from from different mainlines from various parts of the sugar bush can be isolated, with some sap saved and some discarded, ensuring only high quality sap is used for increased maple syrup production at the end of the season.
RTTC and the OMSPA executive, with tremendous scientific help and leadership from Dr. David Miller, has kicked the can as far down the road as we can on this research project to get this far. And at very little overall expense to OMSPA. We now know that there are two specific amino acids that begin to show up as the maple buds swell that can be considered precursors to the sap becoming buddy. All that needs to be done now is to develop a paper-based aptamer test to detect these amino acids in unprocessed sap. Dr. Maria DeRosa of Carleton University, a colleague of Dr. Miller’s, is a world expert in developing such paper-based tests for detecting contamination in various food crops. We are looking for $80,000 CND to fund this last stage of the research. So far OMSPA has put in $7500 to match a grant application for $7500 from MITACS. So in effect, we are now looking for $65,000 to fund two years of research which includes hiring a grad student. Although success is not guaranteed, Dr. Miller feels that there is an 85% chance that this can be accomplished.
Marc and Diane Curle, and Mary Beth and I have each donated one thousand dollars to this project. Why? Because we are wealthy people with lots of money to throw around? Not at all. Because we believe in the project, and it is a way of giving back to the maple industry that has been so good to us and our families over the years. We believe in producers helping producers to make the best quality maple syrup possible. This is a potential game-changing idea that has originated in Ontario, with extensive research done by world class scientists right here in Ontario. It will benefit maple producers in every province and state if it succeeds. In my mind, I look at this donation as more like a short term personal loan than a donation, but with a bit of risk involved. If it succeeds, we will make this money back in no time once a buddy sap field test product is on the market. Remember the old saying “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”? Sometimes you just have to take a chance and have faith that things will work out.
Where can you come up with some money for a donation to this project? Well, one suggestion is to look at your vehicle fuel costs. The price of gasoline and diesel fuel is way up right now. If you could limit your trips to town, and park your vehicle more often, you would save a lot of money in fuel. Saving even five fill ups for your pickup truck would keep $500 in your pocket to use as a donation to this project. And even more importantly, you won’t be spewing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which are without a doubt negatively impacting the health of your very own sugar bush. As an EV owner, every time I drive past a gas station these days I feel like I am driving for free (which of course is not true, but it is at 25% of the fuel cost with no oil changes or muffler repairs, etc. required).
So, please make a donation to this important research project, no matter what the amount. This is the time for Ontario to shine. And if the project does not go ahead, John Williams will make sure that your money is returned. The donations should be sent to John Williams at OMSPA as soon as possible.
Oh, back to the title of this article. Does maple syrup really improve your sex life? Well, we don’t know the answer to that one yet either. Perhaps yet another future research topic for RTTC …