Sesame, a broadleaf summer crop, was introduced to the Texas Coastal Bend about four years ago when we had about 30,000 acres of failed cotton, and were looking for a late summer crop that liked hot, dry weather.
That year we were lucky and received some timely summer rains and we made a respectable sesame crop. This year was a bit of a challenge, with very limited rainfall during the growing season. Farmers planted about 6,000 acres of sesame in the Coastal Bend this year and produced an average yield of about 375 pounds per acre.
With that said, the demand and market for sesame continues to grow. This summer I was introduced to some sesame buyers from Japan, who very interested in how we grow sesame. They also shared the growing demand for sesame in Japan and other Asian countries and were hoping to help meet that growing demand with U.S. grown sesame.
It is always good when folks from other parts of the world come to you wanting to buy home grown ag products.
Under ideal conditions, sesame can reach heights up to 6 feet, and generally we see heights of 3 to 5 feet in dryland production, with yields from 500 to 1,200 pounds per acre. This year, I evaluated test plots that only reached heights of 2.2 feet and yields averaging only 255 pounds per acre. Sure needed that rain in July and August.
The most critical aspect to growing sesame is planting, as one needs to wait until soil temperatures reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning and then have adequate moisture in the top 1.5 inches of soil. Often, sesame growers find themselves waiting on a planting rain, as the seed needs to have moisture around it for 3 to 5 days for good emergence. This fact alone, made it challenging this year to find the optimum planting window. We found ourselves in that situation of waiting on that planting rain, which finally came in early May and allowed us to plant following the rainfall event.
A Sesame Variety Test was planted on May 17, 2011, at the Texas AgriLife Research & Extension Center, Clarkwood, in a randomized, complete replicated block with four replications, following the early May rainfall in 38-inch rows, using 45-hole sorghum planter plates and placed to a seeding depth of 1.25 inches.
Seeding rate was 2.5 pounds per acre. During the growing season, total rainfall amounted to 0.88 inch. Six varieties were evaluated for agronomic performance. Final plant heights ranged from a low of 21.3 inches to a high of 29.8 inches, with 14 to 16 nodes per plant. Soil moisture stress late in the growing season, resulted in charcoal rot developing in all varieties.
Test plots were harvested on September 13, 2011, with yields ranging from a low of 225 pounds per acre for the variety S28 to a high of 284 pounds per acre for S33. Despite the poor yields due to a lack of rainfall, prices were good, as the majority of sesame growers had 40 cents per pound contracts and received a bonus of three-cents per pound.
Results from the 2011 Sesame Variety Trials conducted by Nueces County Extension Staff and Texas AgriLife Research have been posted online at the Nueces County Extension website at: http://nueces.agrilife.org/  under the publications link. The support of SESACO, Sesame Coordinators, for supplying seed and supporting the test is greatly appreciated. A detailed report is available at this website or may be obtained in the County Extension Office upon request.