Next year when you buy a Big Mac, those sesame seeds on top of the bun may have been grown someplace in the South. That chance exists.
A Mexican company that is a major supplier of sesame seed for the U.S. market has contracted with at least a few farmers to grow sesame in south Alabama and northwest Mississippi this season. The crop also was promoted over the winter in parts of Louisiana and Missouri, although there’s no word on whether anybody committed to grow it in those states.
William Birdsong, Auburn University Extension Agronomist based in Headland, Alabama, said that several growers in south Alabama will produce sesame this season. Prices offered were enough to stir up interest. It probably didn’t hurt that peanut contracts early this year were anemic in many instances, so farmers were open to new alternatives.
“We’ll probably have something over 1,000 acres but it may be up to 2,000 acres,” Birdsong said.
A few farmers in the area actually grew sesame last year and got a feel for the crop, he added.
Joe Townsend, a Coahoma, Mississippi, consultant, said several farmers in his area will try it, too.
“I can see where sesame might fit well with cotton,” said Townsend. “Farmers were offered a decent contract and will have a nearby delivery point. They’ll actually have a shorter haul than if they carried beans to the local elevator on the Mississippi River.”
Townsend sees potential to plant sesame where plant bugs might be a headache in cotton, specifically in smaller fields surrounded by corn, which hosts the pests and then pushes hordes of them into adjoining fields later in the season. Sesame doesn’t appear to be a plant bug target, he said.
He’s already got one field in mind where he’d like to see sesame planted.
“Corn is all around it, and we have cotton on that ground we’ll have to spray over and over for plant bugs,” he explained.
Production costs appear to be in line with soybeans, he added. His growers were offered 43 cents a pound, which Townsend termed “fair money,” based on yield projections.
Townsend has asked Texas consultants with sesame experience about the crop and found generally positive points.
“It’s got deep roots that could help extract some of that deep nitrogen that you tend to build up in cotton ground,” he said. “Based on information I’ve found, roots might go 10 feet deep. By the time cotton taps into deep nitrogen, we’re moving toward defoliation, and more nitrogen is the last thing you want then. If we can pull away that nitrogen with sesame, that’s a bonus.
“My (consultant) friends in Texas who have worked with sesame says it’s highly drought tolerant and does good things to the soil. They tell me that whatever crop follows it will really benefit.”
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Owen Taylor is senior editor and publisher at AgFax Media LLC. He writes a number of crop and pest advisories during the regular cropping season, covering crops as diverse as almonds, cotton, rice, grains and peanuts in 14 Sunbelt states (subscribe to his crop advisories here). A native of Rosedale, Mississippi, he grew up in his parents' aerial application service. His career includes stints as a political writer, magazine editor and long-time freelance writer. His work has appeared in most of the major U.S. farm publications.