Sesame Could be New Cash Crop for Southeast

Geneva, AL - You could call Scott Gray diversified.

Back in the 1980’s he built his first chicken houses, and then he got into real estate.

“It just kind of got slow and that led me back to my roots on row crop farming. With row crop farming you’ve got to enjoy and like it,” said Gray.

He enjoys seeing peanuts, cotton and corn grow in his fields in Geneva, but he was looking to diversify.

“Rotation in crops really helps your yield in all crops. You can’t plant peanuts, peanuts, peanuts, every year because your yields would drop off every year,” said Gray.

This year he joined many other farmers in the southeast and planted sesame. The total number of acres planted jumped from 3.500 to 35,000.

Farmers won’t get rich growing sesame, but the planting costs are minimal.

“You only plant about 2-3 pounds an acre. Only about 8 dollars an acre invested,” said Gray.

Sesame really thrives in sandy soil. Meaning it’s drought resistant. So field where peanuts and cotton don’t do as well, sesame may be the answer for some farmers.

Gray said, “This plant will actually reach 5-6 feet in height. You harvest it just like you would a soybean. We’re looking for 800-1,000 pounds per acre.”

If Gray sees that type of yield, sesame could become a bigger part of his diversified farm.

Sesame is actually considered the oldest oilseed crop, but traditionally it was hand-harvested. A new variety keeps the capsules intact and can be harvested with a combine.

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