Davis & Sons, Inc. in Virginia’s Southampton County is the 2017 Peanut Efficiency Award winner for the Upper Southeast.
Since the 1950s, the Davis family has successfully grown peanuts near Courtland in southern Virginia.. Fact is, Raymond Davis Sr. planted his first crop of peanuts while in high school and created a strong legacy for his sons Ray Jr. and Jeff to follow.
Today, Ray and Jeff run the farm that their father established in 1955. Dad is still involved, providing input and guidance and helping where he can. Davis & Sons, Inc. is a family operation in every way. Jeff’s son Sonny has been a partner in the operation for three years now, returning to the farm after studying agriculture at Virginia Tech and HVAC at Danville Community College and working in the HVAC field.
This year the family is producing 346 acres of peanuts, all of it for seed peanuts for Birdsong Peanuts and the Virginia Crop Improvement Association.
Both Ray and Jeff emphasize that they are committed to peanuts, a crop that is still vital to their part of the country. From 2007 to 2011, they took a break from growing peanuts due to lower prices and heavy disease pressure. But thanks to the release of the variety Bailey which features an excellent disease control package and good yield potential, the family returned to peanuts in 2012.
Fifty percent of their peanut land is strip tilled with each field evaluated to determine if strip tillage will work for peanuts. They strip till all of their cotton and most of their corn and soybeans. For the rest of their peanuts, they turn to minimum tillage with a stale seedbed.
For every crop they grow, the family plants a cover crop. They use rye for their heavy land and wheat for their sandier land.
Finding the right rotation is also vital. “Our rotations vary,” Ray explains. “We like a four-year rotation but we have land that is out 10 or more years because it’s had cotton and other crops on it. We also have some land that is under just a three-year rotation because of landowners and arrangements we have with them.”