The Norman Transcript

June 17, 2013

Ark. farmers growing sesame

By Jessica Rainwater
The Associated Press

JONESBORO, Ark. — A new crop option for Arkansas farmers is exploding in the Delta — and maybe onto breads and salads.

Sesame seeds acreage in the southeastern United States has risen from about 2,500 in 2012 to about 60,000 this year, according to farmer David Hodges, who has planted 300 to 400 acres of sesame this year. Hodges estimated that about a quarter of those 60,000 acres are in the Delta.

The farmer is working on his first sesame crop in conjunction with Oklahoma-based representatives from Sesaco — the name is short for “Sesame Coordinators.” Hodges said Sesaco takes the time to work with all of the farmers who buy seed from them to make sure they have a good growing program and know what to expect during each season.

Danny Peeper, an agronomist and commercial production manager for Sesaco, has been flying back and forth from Oklahoma to help Arkansas farmers get their crops planted.

“It looks like a good fit for Arkansas,” Peeper told The Jonesboro Sun.

In the past Sesaco only focused on Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma, but because of the last couple of years of extreme drought in those states, the company has broadened its horizons into the east, Peeper said.

Sesame has a production cost of $70 to $80 an acre, compared to $500 or more per acre of rice. Hodges said the low cost is partly because it only requires about 60 units of nitrogen fertilizer, and it has no known natural predator in Arkansas.

“Apparently it has a bitter taste, because deer and other animals won’t touch it like they will soybeans,” Hodges said. “Some guys have figured out it’s good for areas near wildlife refuges and forests.”