Since its inception the South Carolina Peanut Yield Championship has been won by Delano Kneece Farms in Pelion, S.C. 

Winning the award has become something of a family tradition for Delano Kneece, his son Ricky Kneece and his grandson Kane Kneece.

The Kneece family has won the South Carolina yield championship five of the past six years. The only year they didn’t win it, they finished second behind state champion Britt Rowe, who farms near Lynchburg, S.C.

They started growing peanuts before the peanut program was ended. Then, few people were interested in growing peanuts in the Palmetto state. Now, South Carolina peanut growers are pushing 75,000 acres and pushing Florida and neighboring North Carolina for second place in the Southeast in acres planted.

Competition for the state yield championship is getting increasingly competitive, but that’s not a concern for the Kneece family. Winning the championship, says Ricky Kneece, isn’t nearly as important as making more than two tons of peanuts per acre.

Kane Kneece says they try to use the same production practices on soybeans and other crops, but they just don’t have the right soils and growing conditions to produce award winning crops.

“We try, but so far peanuts seem to be the right recipe for high yields,” he says.

It all starts with the right variety. “Since we’ve been growing peanuts, we’ve been fortunate to have a great peanut program at the Edisto Research Center. Jay Chapin and James Thomas have done a great job of getting us information on top producing varieties in our part of the state,” Kneece says.

“We take their advice on varieties, but we also grow a few acres of any variety before we go big with it,” he adds. This year they planted Bailey and Sugg, two new varieties from North Carolina State’s breeding program.

Whether they will once again claim the state yield championship remains to be seen.

All their peanut land is irrigated and is a little on the sandy, lighter side. They typically choose varieties based on performance under similar conditions, then fit the amount of each variety under a pivot. “Getting the amount we needed of the new varieties was a little tough, but we got what we needed to plant this year,” Kneece says.

Another key to their long-term success with peanuts is a long rotation that includes corn, followed by cotton, followed by corn, then planted to peanuts. Following the rotation the South Carolina grower says has been better for them than planting based on commodity prices.