South Texas could see an increase in sesame production in 2009 and potential exists for a significant jump in acreage within the next five years, according to a crop consultant in the Coastal Bend area.

“The 2008 sesame crop in the Coastal Bend has been very good,” says Justin Chopelas, who worked with several farmers on their first sesame crop this year. “Sesaco (Sesame Coordinators, an organization working to establish sesame as a crop in the United States) representatives have been pleased since day one,” he said.

Chopelas said growers should be aware of a few agronomic anomalies. “They will be worked out with experience. Sesaco is dedicated to our area and hopes to have 30,000 to 50,000 acres here within the next five years.”

He thinks the crop has a good fit. “Sesame can be a bit tough to get established but responds well to our heat,” he said. “The seedbed needs to be in good shape and moisture is essential. Following emergence, it prefers about 25 days of dry weather. Heavy rains during this period could hurt stands. Once it passes the 35-day window it will grow 6 inches to 12 inches per week. I think since May tends to be dry the crop should flourish here.”

Chopelas has been somewhat surprised at the interest in this new crop. “The local buzz on sesame has been more than I expected. I think the potential for a positive cash flow peaked growers’ curiosity. Low inputs have really drawn some attention.”

He said a $170 per acre production cost estimate includes cash rent, fertilizer, harvest and a herbicide program. “Essentially it is a Cadillac scenario. If farmers plant behind a failed cotton crop, expenses should run about $60 per acre.

“I believe potential for 7,000 to 8,000 acres is possible for 2009. The only thing holding acreage back now is lack of an insurance program. Sesame is in the new farm program but the Risk Management Agency hasn't set up a pilot program yet. A representative came down in June and talked with several growers about the protocol necessary to get the program up and running. I have stayed in contact with him and it is still in the works.”

Chopelas said growers considering sesame for 2009 should consider several production factors including:

– Lack of crop insurance.

– No herbicides are currently labeled for sesame. Sesaco and ASGA (American Sesame Growers Association) are doing their best to get some labels in position. They have been doing this for several years, but with no more than 300,000 acres in production, it has been a hard sell.

– Following wheat, residual of chosen herbicides can be an issue with stands.

– Growers need a good seedbed to start off.

– Sesame farmers have a large planting window.

– Sesame can be planted and harvested with sorghum equipment.

“Other factors will be more specific to individual growers,” he said.

Farmers with questions can contact Chopelas at 361-813-6660.

email: rsmith@farmpress.com