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Tom Isleib: A profile in courage

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Table of Contents:

• North Carolina State University Plant Breeder Tom Isleib provided peanut varieties that helped growers in the Southeast weather record rainfall this year.

• After suffering a severe stroke, North Carolina State plant breeder tom Isleib continues to work to produce new and better peanut varieties.

• New high oleic peanut varieties are on tap for North Carolina peanut breeder Tom Isleib.

Peanut growers in the Southeast who make any money this year probably owe a part of it to North Carolina State University Plant Breeder Tom Isleib.

He is the ‘father’ of Bailey and Sugg varieties of peanuts and without these highly disease resistant varieties, this year’s peanut crop could have been a major disaster.

Isleib knows a lot about potential disasters.

Now three years back, he was enjoying a fishing trip on Lake Michigan — something he’d done many times in his native state. Then things went really bad. He had a stroke and for a good while whether he would survive hung in the balance between life and death.

Fortunately, Tom did survive and continues his drive to provide peanut producers in the U.S. with the best varieties available. Affable and unflappable, Isleib jokes, “Since the stroke I talk a little funny and I forget things. Come to think of it, I did that before the stroke.”

On a more serious note, Isleib says the team of researchers in his peanut breeding program at North Carolina State, and his colleagues there have been an inspiration that has helped keep him working. “North Carolina State has always provided me with the technicians I’ve needed to do my work. Without the help of Susan Copeland, who works in my breeding program, I don’t know what I would have done in working through my medical problems. All my colleagues have been very understanding and very helpful throughout my return to work,” he says.

One of those colleagues, David Jordan beamed in admiration as Isleib talked about Bailey and Sugg and new peanut varieties coming down the pipeline at a recent field day in North Carolina.

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