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Sesame as an Alternative Crop

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If you are a producer who is rotating wheat or planning on it, sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) is among your choices. Sesame is one of the most ancient oilseed crops and is used for cooking and other culinary preparations in various parts of the world. Sesame seed contains 50 percent oil and 25 percent protein. Sesame cake is a rich source of protein, carbohydrates and minerals, and can serve as a nutritious feed for dairy cattle. The plant is drought tolerant and sets seeds and yields relatively well under high temperatures and low rainfall. Sesame plants are also thought to improve water percolation in the soil because of their deep, penetrating root system.

Until recently, sesame was harvested manually due to its high seed shattering potential. Newer varieties do not shatter as easily, so combines can now be used. Oklahoma and Texas have a climate suitable for sesame growth, so regional producers can utilize this crop as an alternative in their production systems. A key advantage of using sesame in a wheat rotation is that the producer can use the same wheat equipment to plant and harvest both crops.

Since sesame research data are limited in our region, we initiated a sesame variety trial. This trial is intended to furnish producers with information for use in decision making. The information coming from the variety test should be a valuable tool when used in combination with similar information sources.

We evaluated the crop at four different locations: Ardmore, Burneyville, Gene Autry and Walters, Okla. Previous crops were wheat at Ardmore and Walters, sorghum at Gene Autry and rye at Burneyville. The entries were seeded in late June 2010 into a clean-tilled seedbed at Ardmore, Burneyville and Gene Autry in 30-inch rows at 0.75-inch depth; at Walters, they were planted into no-till ground in 15-inch rows at 0.75-inch depth. Sixty pounds of N/acre was applied pre-planting. Plots were harvested after frost at Ardmore, Burneyville and Walters. Due to stand loss caused by flooding after planting, there is no harvest data from Gene Autry.

Table 1.

Total rainfall during the growing season was lower than the 30-year average at all three locations. Dry weather in August 2010, particularly during pod formation, might have had an adverse effect on crop yield at all locations. Grain yields among the varieties ranged from 657 to 954 lbs/ac at Ardmore, 384 to 1,028 lbs/ac at Burneyville and 162 to 439 lbs/ac at Walters.

S-70 (a dwarf variety) was the lowest yielding variety at all three locations and much lower in the sandy loam soils at Burneyville. Varieties S-26 and S-32 with fungicide produced consistently higher yields at all locations. Varieties S-28 and S-30 produced higher yields in two of three locations. Variety EXP3 produced higher yields both at Ardmore and Burneyville, but performed poorly in the no-till scenario and drier environment at Walters. Using fungicide has resulted in variety S-32 having higher yields in one location out of the three.

Based on the current contract price of 40 cents per pound and depending on the location and variety, a producer can sell the crop in the range of $64 to $411 per acre. Since the input costs are minimal, there is an opportunity for a good profit.