Arkansas sesame starting to take some peanut acreage
This year some of Boling’s sesame is under an irrigation pivot and he is hoping to see between 1,200 and 1,500 pounds per acre from that portion. He says other growers are trying irrigation, as well, and the fact that sesame needs much less water than other traditional crops is also attractive.
“It requires about an inch of water a week after the third or fourth week,” he said. “That’s basically nothing compared to other crops we’re watering here in the mid South.”
Branon Thiesse, Craighead County extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the crop seems to be well received by local farmers and he’s not heard of any significant problems.
“I saw one guy who had to replant some – the seed is really small and it looks like using a drill will be really hard to get the depth right,” Thiesse said. “We have a little space out here behind our office and we’ve got a little sesame out there; I just broadcast it and it’s growing. I wanted to see what the plant looks like.”
Travis Faske, an extension plant pathologist at the Lonoke Ag Center, said the amount of acreage under cultivation for sesame this year took him by surprise. It’s concentrated in the northeast corner of the state in counties like Lawrence, Clay, Greene, Randolph, and Craighead, he said, and there’s some effort toward establishing a general distribution center or buying point so there’s a single place to ship the product out to Sesaco. Meanwhile, his office is trying to answer questions as they come up.
“The problem is, there’s a limited amount of information about it,” he said. “What do I spray? I know we spray Dual, a common pre-emergent herbicide, but what do we spray later on? What disease issues might we have it we have a wet, early fall?”
Because of the late planting window, growers seem to be putting in sesame after all their other crops are in. That might mean some problems in October when it comes time to harvest, if they run into rainy weather, said Faske, but he acknowledged that everyone is still in a learning cycle.
“I think it’s a lot of wait and see,” he said.
In the coming years, sesame may gain acreage from other crops, including peanuts. Peanut acreage in Arkansas dropped from 18,000 acres last year to 11,000 this year, following a price drop from $750 to $550 per ton. Peanuts also take more effort than sesame.