Sesame research has been carried out at the University of Florida (UF/IFAS) for more than 5 years now. Scientist there know more about the crop and its behavior in the Southeastern US than ever before. Research results from multiple aspects of sesame management, such as row spacing, cultivar selection, fertilization rates and timing, planting date and irrigation, is now being compiled and submitted for publication. These results will soon be available to interested growers in the region. The UF/IFAS team has also developed SesameFARM, a new irrigation scheduling model that has a similar platform to the model already available for peanuts called PeanutFARM (http://peanutfarm.org/).
Sesame is known to be a relatively low input crop, able to reach good yields with 60 lbs/ac of nitrogen fertilizer. It is also, and more importantly, drought tolerant. In fact, in some African countries it is the last crop that can be grown when every other crop fails under severe drought. This trait is particularly interesting since water consumption in Florida is likely to intensify in the coming years, accentuating the conflict between urban and farming uses. However, like all crops, sesame will perform better under irrigation.
The purpose of SesameFARM is to help growers with the irrigation management of their crop, taking advantage of its relatively low requirement for water. Sesame is a new crop for most growers in the Southeast, so questions arise about whether to irrigate or not because of the drought tolerant reputation of the crop. Common questions include, “How long can the crop resist a dry period?” and, “How can I determine if the crop is water stressed before the first wilting symptoms appear?” SesameFARM addresses these questions through utilizing phenological measurements of the crop over the past five years of research, and the application of a growing degree day (GDD) model for sesame. The development and validation of the model is a collaborative effort between UF/IFAS and the University of Georgia with Drs. Wes Porter and Scott Tubbs.
SesameFARM estimates the daily amount of water available for the crop in the soil, compared to the estimated daily amount of water used by the crop. To do so, SesameFARM models root length, canopy development, and water use throughout the season utilizing accumulated GDDs. The user simply inputs the daily average temperature, rainfall, evapotranspiration and irrigation applied, and the model estimates whether irrigation is needed. The weather data can be accessed through the Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) (http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/) website for Florida, and the UGA Weather Network for Georgia (http://weather.uga.edu/).
The final output from the model is either “Adequate Soil Moisture” when the water supply is sufficient for the crop, “Check Field” when it falls below 70% of the maximum plant available water and “Irrigate” when it falls below 50%. The model can only run with data from the previous day, since the weather stations release their information after a 24 hour cycle. To compensate for this, the model gives an estimate of how many days are left before the next call for irrigation.
An online version of SesameFARM is not yet available, but a free beta version can be obtained upon request to: Romain Gloaguen. If you choose to use it, feedback and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Enhancing Sustainability Options for Farmers
Article by Margaret Lawrence, News Unit Manager, Alabama Cooperative Extension
Weather is one of farming’s greatest challenges. But Dr. Brenda Ortiz, a corn and grain crops specialist with Alabama Extension, says farmers’ abilities to manage production risks like drought or heavy rains are improving.
“Many of the farmers who are leading the way in the use of risk resilient practices learned about them at Southeast Climate Extension workshops and outreach programs,” said Ortiz.
Producers can learn more about climate adaptation strategies at Ag Solutions Day Aug. 10 in Orange Beach, Alabama. The one-day event is free and will be held at the Orange Beach Events Center, 4671 Wharf Parkway. The meeting is slated for 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central Daylight Time and lunch will be provided.
Registration is encouraged by July 31. Visit http://www.aces.edu/go/551 to register online. For more information, contact Jeana Baker at (334) 844-3922 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Producers will learn best options for reducing climate-related risks,” said Ortiz. “In addition, they will learn the latest on solution-oriented technologies that will help them better manage risk.”
“Farmers will see innovations that can enhance their sustainability as well learn strategies that will allow them to upscale their production levels.”
- Conservation tillage and high-residue cover crops
- Sub-surface drip irrigation
- Variable rate irrigation
- Sod-based rotation
- Sesame—A New Crop for Southeast
- Use of Drones in Agriculture
Non-shattering varieties of sesame allow for mechanical harvesting at the end of the season. Photo credit: Doug Mayo
Producers will have a chance to get hands-on experience with Agroclimate website. AgroClimate uses crop simulation models along with climate data allowing producers to compare changes in possible outcomes under different conditions. Users can monitor growing degree days, chill hours, freeze risk, disease risks for selected crops and current and projected drought conditions. They can also learn about climate cycles affecting the Southeast, such as the El Niño.
Finally, participants will hear from farmers, industry representatives and Extension professionals during a panel discussion on agricultural solutions as well as a climate outlook for this summer and fall.
“Sponsored by Southeast Climate Extension project, this workshop offers growers a unique opportunity to learn from other growers as well as Extension professionals and scientists from a number of universities,” said Ortiz.
Southeast Climate Extension Project is a network of row crop farmers, agricultural Extension specialists, researchers and climate scientists engaging in climate adaptation dialogue in the southeastern United States. AG Solutions Day is the Southeast Climate Extension Project’s annual adaptation exchange outreach event.
Vetch is a native legume which can be planted as cool season forage.
Growers Randall Dasher and Jerry Goff at a sesame field in McAlpin, FL. Photo credit: Diane Rowland
For the past four years, Dr. Diane Rowland, a Crop Physiologist with the UF Agronomy Department, and Elena Toro, Agriculture Extension Agent in Suwannee County have been researching and working with growers on sesame production in Florida. In the U.S., sesame has traditionally been grown in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas. It is marketed exclusively through the Sesaco Corporation out of Hobart, Oklahoma. Breeders in the Sesaco Corporation have developed the only non-shattering sesame varieties in the world that allow for sesame to be mechanically harvested. Even today, 99% of the sesame grown in the world is still harvested manually, because traditional sesame capsules shatter during the drying stage before harvest. Therefore, the Sesaco lines have an advantage because they can be mechanically harvested, so U.S. production is globally competitive. Sesame was first grown in the Southwestern U.S., because of its renowned drought tolerance. However, in the last five years, the devastating level of drought in the southwest has dropped yields, leading Sesaco to explore other U.S. production regions, including Florida.
Non-shattering sesame varieties allow for mechanical harvesting at the end of the season. Photo credit: Doug Mayo
Aside from drought tolerance, sesame offers other benefits including nematode resistance, pollinator diversity, and the potential to be an economically beneficial rotational crop in North Florida, where crop options are sometimes limited. After seeing the potential of the crop in UF/IFAS research trials since 2011, producers in the Live Oak area began growing sesame in 2013, with total commercial acreage reaching nearly 6,000 acres in 2014. Rowland and Toro, along with a graduate student Annie Couch have continued researching sesame in trials at the Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra, FL and the Suwannee Valley Agricultural Extension Center in Live Oak, FL. The trials have helped Extension agents and growers become familiar with different sesame varieties, planting configurations, irrigation needs, and nutrient partitioning. In 2013, there were nearly 1,000 acres of commercial sesame planted by 15 growers in the Suwannee Valley. The average yields for the two varieties grown were between 720-800 lbs per acre at a contract price of $0.42/ lb. In 2014, on the more than 6,000 acres planted in the Suwannee Valley, contract prices for irrigated sesame increased from $0.42 to $0.50/ lb.
There are still many questions to answer when it comes to sesame production, particularly in regards to weed control and possible disease pressure. There does seem to be a potential for sesame production in Florida, particularly in areas where rotational options are limited.
For more information on the specific practices recommended by Sesaco to grow sesame, download:
Sesame field in Jackson County grown in 2013. Photo credit: Doug Mayo