The cover of the 2018 NCSU Peanut Information book shows an interesting chart of peanut acreage and pod yield in North Carolina from 1909 to 2016. The solid line of yield goes from a little more than 600 pounds per acre in 1909 to a high point of about 4,400 pounds per acre most recently. The dotted line of peanut acreage, when multiplied by 100, starts at about 180,000 acres in 1909, reaches a high of more than 300,000 acres in the early 1940s and then declines slowly, mostly leveling off in the 2000s around 95,000 acres.
The yield line is mostly level with a slight upward movement from 1909 through mid-century. In the late 1950s, the lines cross and average yield moves in a definite upward trajectory while acreage declines. From 1991 to now, average yield increases from around 2,500 pounds per acre to the yields achieved today, which are often above 4,000 pounds per acre.
For this period of time of rapid yield gain, David Jordan, North Carolina State University Extension agronomist has a name that he has even considered adding to Wikipedia’s list of effects, a list for observable phenomena in their respective fields of study. He calls it, “The Isleib Effect.”
That’s what happened in 1991. Dr. Tom Isleib came on board North Carolina State University as a peanut breeder and so began a period of tremendous growth in peanut cultivar development of Virginia-type varieties. His first cultivar, released in 1996, was NC 12C, a variety with Cylindrocladium Black Rot resistance. Varieties that produce greater yield and are resistant to key diseases are an important reason for the yield jump in the last 25 years. These varieties have also met the needs of the entire peanut industry. Even after suffering a stroke several years ago, Dr. Isleib fought his way back through recovery to work on Bailey, Sullivan and now the release of Bailey II.
Dr. Isleib is retiring this spring and he will be missed for his exceptional work in boosting the economic vitality of the peanut industry in the Virginia-Carolina area and possibly almost as much for his sense of humor and wit.
The 2018 NCSU Peanut Information, with its yield and acreage graph, is a visual representation of Dr. Isleib’s work. As Dr. Jordan says, “This graph is another reminder of his legacy and contributions to peanut growers in the region.”
Thank you, Dr. Isleib. You will be greatly missed.