A Conversation with Maury Boyd

By Timothy M. Spann

There’s probably not a person in the Florida citrus industry that hasn’t at least heard of Maury Boyd, but just in case, here’s a bit of background: When greening was first found in Maury’s grove in Felda in 2005, he made a conscious decision not to remove infected trees. Bear in mind, this was not a minor decision — the grove is nearly 400 acres. Instead, Maury chose to take steps to maintain the health and productivity of his trees in spite of their greening infection and devel­oped what has become known as the “Maury Boyd cocktail.” To date, he has not removed a single tree because of greening.

As a testament to the success of his program, Maury points to a block of young Valencia trees in his grove. The block was heavily infected early on in the epidemic. Many of the world’s greening experts visited the block during those early days of 2005 and 2006 and signed its death certificate, saying it would be dead within a year or two. Today, the block is still alive, growing and bearing a good crop. In Maury’s words, “It looks better than it has ever looked.” This year, Maury says the fruit are good and no drop is occurring. He credits part of the success in this young block to the addition of boron and TurfPro (an organic soil amendment) to the program last year.

In addition to good nutrition, Maury is a staunch proponent of psyllid control. “It has to be 100 percent. I know that’s not achievable, but that’s the benchmark I use,” he says. Trying to achieve that goal with only the use of pesticides causes Maury concern about residues. That is why he has taken up the new challenge of promoting the development of a psyllid-repellent system based on dim­ethyl disulfide (DMDS), the repellent discovered through research on guava.

Maury has been consulting with engineers and working almost single-handedly to find funding for the development of a repellent-delivery system. The system, as he envisions it, would be a simple network of small diameter tubing with a few nozzles per acre throughout the grove — not unlike an irrigation system — that would release DMDS or other repellents automatically 24/7, 365 days a year. A computer control system would regulate flow based on wind and could completely shut down the system if necessary. Such a sys­tem would be particularly beneficial for solid set blocks of new trees. Windbreaks would enhance the system’s efficacy.

Maury knows that he is criticized by some for leaving infected trees in the ground, potentially making it nearly impossible to bring new trees into production without them becoming infected. However, some would be surprised to learn that Maury doesn’t disagree with his critics. In fact, he’s not sure that a new grove can be planted and kept greening-free for any considerable amount of time whether trees are removed or not, given our current psyllid control methods. “Look at the Ben Hill Griffin block in Frostproof [at the corner of U.S. 27 and Hwy. 17]. Steve Farr’s an ex­cellent production manager, you can’t get much better, and still it has 1 or 2 percent infection already.”

That’s precisely why Maury is pushing for the develop­ment of a repellent system. Such a system, he believes, coupled with judicious, well-timed pesticide applications, is the only way to control psyllids well enough to keep new, solid blocks of trees greening-free, and preserve the integri­ty of the juice and fruit byproducts. If the system were very effective, it may even allow for the restoration of much of the biological control we have lost over the past few years.

Maury’s final thought on how to win the greening battle sums things up pretty well: “We’re gonna have to think outside the box.”

Maury Boyd

          (2002A) 9/17/2010

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