Thousands of acres from
"It's just a tough plant" that endures through a variety of conditions, said
The nation's traditional sesame-growing region is in
"They get rain, but not at the right time," said Scott, from
But in the southeast, where rainfall can exceed 50 inches annually, sesame flourishes.
The crop isn't likely to supplant cotton or other primary crops in the Southeast — 30,000 to 40,000 acres pales to the millions of acres holding cotton, beans, milo or corn, according to the
"It costs about
One problem with sesame seed pods is that they split open shortly after maturity and spill 50-80 seeds onto the ground — leading some linguists to debate whether this led to the password "open sesame" in the book "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves."
So, over the last 10 years, Sesaco has introduced a number of plants with shatter-resistant pods, letting farmers leave sesame in the field while they bring in more weather-sensitive crops. Later, farmers can adjust their combines to strip sesame plants of the hardy pods, keeping the seeds whole to protect the oil inside.
"If there's a bad year, that may be the death of it. If it's successful, it may go forward," Hodges said. "It's good where there are a lot of wildlife areas, where they have bad deer pressure. Deer don't like it."
The U.S. grows only 3 percent to 5 percent of the world's sesame, Scott said. Sesaco is the primary producer domestically and ships some of its crop overseas.
"We just tell everybody, 'Eat hamburgers,'" said
"You can mess it up and still make 800 pounds. It's a forgiving crop," he said.
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