Sesame surges onto local farming scene

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - There's a fresh face to Region 8 agriculture and it's an ever-popular staple in the supermarket-the sesame seed.

Crop acreage is up to 60,000 this year and the demand is high.

This Midwest mainstay thrived in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas for decades, but has recently fallen victim to drought and disease on the Great Plains.

This crop has found a new home and is now surging onto the local farming scene.

Some traditional rice and soybean farmers say sesame may have a bright future as a double crop or rotational crop.

"It's my first year to experiment with it, it sure is. I looked at that up in Greene County last year, but this is my first year to actually grow any of it. I guess I've planted about 450 acres of it, I guess it was.'

Sesame now stands in an estimated 12 to 14 thousand acres across Northeast Arkansas.

David Hodges says this new crop is growing in popularity because of its low input cost and high profit margin.

"Seed cost is about 20 bucks an acre. Fertilizer usage is fairly minimal. Herbicide costs are pretty reasonable...pretty cheap. Normally you're not looking at any insect application or anything like that."

With any new crop, it's a case of trial and error; there have been a few problems along the way.

Hodges says typical herbicide cannot be used.

Too much ground cover will prevent the plant from sprouting.

"People in this area have been doing a lot of no-tilling for years with soybean. We tried that with this and it's been a little bit of a challenge getting a stand in some of that wheat straw."

Hodges adds that sesame doesn't like to have wet feet; standing water can damage the crop.

This summer weather has been less than ideal.

"These plants I'm standing in didn't start fruiting until a little ways on up the stalk and I don't know if that's because the cool weather or something else. That's still yet to be seen, I don't know how that affects us."

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