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Sesame seed

However, before sesame can was the largest importer taking

realise its potential, extensive 24% of the world imports. The
Mal Bennett
research is needed to adapt the second largest importer was the
crop to mechanical agricultural USA with 8% of world imports.
systems. Furthermore, as It is forecast that the imports of
Australia is becoming more sesame seed will grow at
Introduction involved with Asian regional between 6 and 8% per annum
activities, where much of the until the year 2012.
Sesame, Sesamum indicum L., is worlds sesame is grown,
Australia imported 6400 t of
an ancient oil crop supplying Australias own agricultural self-
sesame seed in 1996 (worth
seeds for confectionery purposes, interest could be combined with
$A12.7m), with China, Mexico
edible oil, paste (tahini), cake its international extension and
and India the main suppliers.
and flour. It is typically a crop of aid programs by taking the lead
Australian sesame seed produc-
small farmers in the developing in a regional sesame research and
tion is centred in the Northern
countries. In 1993, all but development project.
Territory and Queensland, with
1000 ha of the about 7 million ha New South Wales showing
of sesame grown were in interest. Although production
developing countries (Table 1). Markets and
has fallen from 291 t in 198889
marketing issues to 90 t in 199394, it is antici-
Sesame has important
agricultural attributes: it is pated that improvements in
In 1993, the world trade in cultivars and harvesting technol-
adapted to tropical and
sesame seed was 486,000 t. Japan ogy will increase production.
temperate conditions, grows well
on stored soil moisture with
minimal irrigation or rainfall, can
produce good yields under high
temperatures, and its grain has a
high value ($Al000/t).

Sesame world production areas

have remained generally stable
over the years, but in some
countries the crop is being
marginalised. Competition from
more remunerative crops and a
shortage of labour have pushed
sesame to the less fertile fields
and to areas of higher risk. Left
unchecked, sesame production
may decrease in the foreseeable
Current and potential
future. This provides an growing areas
opportunity for Australia to
produce larger quantities of high
quality sesame seed to replace
lost world production.

A H A N D B O O K F O R FA R M E R S A N D I N V E S T O R S 361
Table 1. Sesame areas, production and yields in 1993 by region. manufacturers recipe. At present
all halva sold in Australia is fully
imported from Greece, Turkey
and Israel.

Attention to two aspects

natural antioxidants and organic
sesamecould improve
marketing of Australian sesame

About the

Malcolm Bennett, BAgricSc,

There is an obvious potential to hulled sesame seed. Market has been sesame agronomist
develop markets for Australian demand is currently met by local in the NT Department of
sesame seed, both here and manufacturers and imports from Primary Industry and Fisheries
overseas. Sesame seed is Mexico, the Middle East and (see Key contacts for address)
presently imported into Australia some Mediterranean countries. for 11 years.
either as a whole seed and then
dehulled or imported dehulled. Dip and spread manufactur-
ers. Dip manufacturers add
Oil industry. Australia imported ingredients, such as chickpeas Sesame seed contains
769 t of sesame oil and sesame and egg plant, to tahini and call antioxidants which inhibit the
products in 1996 (worth $A3.7m). the products Hommus and Baba development of rancidity in the
Currently, there is one sesame oil Gannouj. These manufacturers oil. In the food industry, where
processor in Australia producing purchase their tahini from local synthetic antioxidants are used
small quantities of sesame oil suppliers and some also use extensively, there is an
from locally grown seed. imports. increasing demand for more
natural products.
Confectionery and biscuit Bakery industry. The bakery
industry. The raw seeds industry prefers dehulled seeds, With the growing demand for
currently used in Australia for which are purchased from local organically grown food there is a
confectionery and biscuit and overseas suppliers. market for sesame products
production are sourced from local produced under organic
and overseas suppliers. Halva industry. Halva is a conditions.
popular sweet made by mixing
Tahini industry. Tahini, a approximately 50% tahini with Crop potential. During the
traditional Middle Eastern boiled/whipped sugar and 197080s Australian agronomists
sesame paste, is made from several other ingredients to a targeted chickpea and canola in

362 T H E N E W R U R A L I N D U S T R I E S
their search for new commercial about 16C. In temperate areas, water requirement can be met
crops. Now, almost two decades soil temperatures determine the from available soil moisture at
later, chickpeas and canola are earliest date of sowing. The sowing, rainfall during the
grown extensively, with domestic optimum temperature for growth growing season and irrigation.
and international sales. Sesame varies with cultivar in the range
has the potential to follow their 2735C. Periods of high Hail and frost cause severe
development pattern with temperature above 40C during damage to sesame crops. Strong
adequate research and flowering reduce capsule and winds as the crop matures will
persistence by scientists and seed development. greatly increase the likelihood of
farmers. lodging and pre-harvest seed

Production Cultivars
Key messages
E Suitable to sorghum Four sesame cultivars are recom-
Sesame grows best on well- growing regions. mended for use in a Australia.
drained soils of moderate They are Yori 77 and Edith for
E High value oilseed crop.
fertility. The optimum pH for the NT and northern WA, and
growth ranges from 5.4 to 6.7. E Extensive local and Aussie Gold and Beechs
Good drainage is crucial, as overseas markets. Choice for Queensland. The
sesame is very susceptible to characteristics of these four
short periods of waterlogging. cultivars are given in Table 2.
Sesame is intolerant of very There are no cultivars recom-
acidic or saline soils. Because sesame is short day mended for growing in NSW and
plant, with flowering initiated as it is advised that prospective
The response of sesame to both daylength declines to a critical growers seek advice from Se-
temperature and daylength level, cultivars are developed for lected Seeds Pty Ltd, Qld.
indicates that it is well adapted particular latitudes.
to wet season production in the
tropics, or summer production in The total amount of water Agronomy
the warmer temperate areas. required to grow a sesame crop
While there is some variation ranges from 600 to 1000 mm, There are various advantages in
between cultivars, the base depending on the cultivar and including sesame in a crop
temperature for germination is the climatic conditions. The rotation system. If sown after a
leguminous crop, sesame can
utilise the residual nitrogen. If
the leguminous crop made good
growth, then the residual
nitrogen should meet about one-
third to one-half of the sesame
crop needs.

Where sesame is rotated with a

cereal, there can be mutual
benefits in weed control.
Broadleaf weeds can be readily
controlled in the cereal crop
using selective herbicides, such
as atrazine or 24 D, greatly
reducing the risk of broadleaf
weeds in the subsequent sesame
crop. Similarly, grass weeds
which are difficult to control in
Desiccation is a prerequisite to successful harvesting of sesame. the cereal crop can be fairly

A H A N D B O O K F O R FA R M E R S A N D I N V E S T O R S 363
easily controlled in a Table 2. Characteristics of Australian sesame cultivars.
conventionally tilled sesame crop
using pre-emergent herbicides
such as Treflan, Dual and
Stomp. Eptam can be used as
a pre-emergent herbicide for the
control of some broadleaf weeds.
Paddocks to be sown should
have an even grade and be well
drained. As control of broadleaf
weeds is a problem in sesame,
paddocks with a low content of
broadleaf weed seeds should be
The optimum sowing date for
sesame in NSW is the first half
of December, in Queensland the
2nd and 3rd weeks of December
Most sandy loam soils can be Pest and disease
expected to be deficient in P, K,
while in the NT the 2nd and 3rd
S, Cu, Zn and B. Unless the area control
weeks of January are
has received prior applications of
fertiliser, an application of at Sesame grows slowly during the
Seed should be sown in rows least 100 kg/ha of both single early stages of growth and is not
3050 cm apart to give superphosphate plus trace strongly competitive with weeds.
3035 plants/m2. Generally a elements and muriate of potash Poor weed control early in the
sowing rate of 3.3 kg/ha of seed is warranted. life of the crop can result in
is required. If sesame is sown on greatly reduced crop yields.
1 m row spacing to fit with The clay soils tend to be more
equipment configuration or In the NT, zero-tillage
fertile. They do not require K,
irrigation bed arrangement, then techniques are recommended to
but applications of P, S, Cu, Zn
the seeding rate should be assist establishment. Zero tillage
and B will be needed.
reduced by half. Sowing in cool involves sowing the crop into a
conditions in NSW will require mulch which reduces weed
higher sowing rates. The number and timing of growth and has other benefits.
irrigations will depend on soil These include reducing soil
As sesame seed is small, sowing type, location and seasonal temperatures and soil surface
depth should be no greater than conditions. Generally, the crop evaporation, and protecting the
2.5 cm and the seed should be requirements for water can be soil from erosion. No post-
sown into moist soil. expected to be about half of that emergence herbicides for grass
for cotton or maize. The control can be used.
The fertiliser requirements for
preferred method for
sesame will depend on the
establishment is an initial In NSW, where row spacing is
fertility of the soil, which will, in
watering before sowing. The soil wide, inter-row cultivation and
turn, vary with soil type and
needs to be kept moist until the spot spraying with glyphosate is
previous land use. The following
beginning of flowering, to help possible. The pre-emergent
is a guide on the type and rate of
early growth and to maintain herbicides trifluralin,
fertiliser to be applied.
herbicide activity. The most metolachlor, and pendimethalin
An application rate of 60 kg/ha of critical time for moisture is can be used for control of grassy
nitrogen is likely to be adequate. between first flower and weeds. Sesame is extremely
The nitrogen should all be completion of flowering. The sensitive to low concentrations of
applied at sowing as there final irrigation should be applied the residual herbicides in the
appears to be no advantage in a when the lower capsules turn sulfonylurea family which arc
split application. yellow. widely used in wheat and barley.

364 T H E N E W R U R A L I N D U S T R I E S
stems and pods. As spots enlarge
they develop lighter coloured
Key statistics centres.

Areas and production of sesame in Australia

Harvesting, storage
and handling
The indeterminate growth habit
of sesame with its subsequent
uneven ripening of the capsules
creates difficulties for mechani-
cal harvesting. However, tech-
niques have now been devel-
oped that reduce seed losses
during harvesting to less than
10%. It is important that the crop
be completely dry before har-
vesting, as sap from green
material passing through the
These include Glean, Logran pest management strategies are header can discolour and taint
and various products containing essential to minimise their the seed, creating off-flavours in
metsulfuron such as Ally. impact. Similar pest subsequent processed products.
Growers should observe the management strategies to those
plant-back periods listed on the used for cotton are
label. The control of broadleaf recommended. The threshold
weeds poses a major problem at level for spraying is one small to
the present time as no effective medium sized caterpillar per 10
post-emergent herbicides have plants. To date two applications
been identified. of insecticide have provided
satisfactory control.
While a wide range of insect
pests attacks sesame around the Sesame is prone to root and stem
world only the sesame leaf diseases associated with
webber (Antigastra catalaunalis), waterlogging, while damping-off
Heliothis caterpillars, Helicoverpa diseases can also occur if
punctigera and H. armigera and humidity is high. Seven diseases
green vegetable bug (Nezara affecting sesame have been
viridula) have caused serious identified but only two of them,
problems in Australia. To date, Corynespora cassilcola (target
sesame leaf webber has not been spot) and Pseudocercospora sesami
recorded in NSW. Mirids can (large cercospora leaf spot), can
also infest sesame crops. The severely affect grain yields.
yellow mirid is a beneficial and
should not be sprayed, while the Large cercospora leaf spot causes
green mirid may require control. large, irregularly shaped, dull
brown spots on the foliage. The
Heliothis caterpillars are highly spots often coalesce, killing
mobile and can rapidly damage portions or entire leaves on
sesame capsules. Control is made susceptible cultivars during
difficult by the high levels of humid conditions. Commercial sesame cultivars
pesticide resistance found in grown in north-western Australia
Heliothis. Regular monitoring Target spot first appears as dark include Edith (right) and Yori 77
and the application of integrated (often purplish) spots on leaves, (left).

A H A N D B O O K F O R FA R M E R S A N D I N V E S T O R S 365
The recommended procedure approximately 50% and at a will depend on the expected
for harvesting sesame is to spray temperature less than 18C. returns from alternative crops
the crop with a desiccant when at that can be grown. The area
least 70% of the capsules have sown to sesame is dependent on
changed colour from dark green
Economics of sesame the area that can be harvested in
to light green or yellow. In production 3 days by one harvester.
northern Australia, an aerial Currently 90100 ha is the
application of Reglone at The economics of sesame recommended unit area. A
1 L/ha has proven effective. In production will vary with smaller area should be sown if
NSW and southern Queensland location, while the attractiveness the crop is being sown for the
the rate of Reglone should be of the crop to a potential grower first time.
increased to 23 L/ha. In south-
ern NSW where temperatures
are much cooler, desiccants have
proven unreliable and it is Gross margin budget for sesame production in the Northern Territory,
recommended that the crop be Queensland and New South Wales
harvested and windrowed to dry.

The crop is harvested when 95%

of the capsules have turned
brown, which should be about
79 days after desiccation. At
this stage, the grain moisture
content will be about 67% in
northern Australia. In temperate
areas the moisture content is
likely to be higher and the grain
will require a longer time to dry
before harvesting.

Harvesting is most efficient at a

ground speed of 46 km/hour
using a harvester fitted with a
Harvestair air reel and an
extended table which gives a
knife-to-auger distance as large
as possible.

Sesame seed is easily threshed

and relatively delicate, so drum
speed should be reduced to
about half of that required for
cereals, and the concave
clearance made as wide as
possible. Seed damage during
harvesting affects both the
viability of the seed, storage and
the quality of the oil.

For safe long-term storage,

sesame seed should be clean,
have a moisture content no more
than 6% and be stored at a
relative humidity of

366 T H E N E W R U R A L I N D U S T R I E S
Don Beech
306 Carmody Road
St Lucia, Qld 4067
Phone: (07) 3377 0375
Fax: (07) 3377 0410

Key references
Bennett, M.R. and Wood, I.M.
(eds) (1995). Proceedings of First
Australian Sesame Workshop,
Northern Territory Department
of Primary Industry and
Fisheries, Darwin.

Bennett, M.R., Imrie, B.C.,

Raymond, L. and Wood, I.M.
Plant breeding is (eds) (1997). Sesame Growers
developing higher
Guide. Northern Territory
yielding cultivars for
Department of Primary Industry
the sesame growing
and Fisheries, Darwin (in press).
regions of Australia.
Beech, D.F. (1996). Sesame
Seeds Industry. In: Australian
Grains, ed. B. Coombs.
Acknowledgments Email: Morescope Publishing Pty Ltd. pp. 414420
This paper has been largely Lawrie Raymond
prepared from papers presented Huile Trading Company
at the First Australian Sesame P.O. Box 2309
Conference held at Darwin and Footscray, Vic. 3011
Katherine in 1995 and the Phone: (03) 9687 3374
(Australian) Sesame Growers Fax: (03) 9689 6185
Guide. The assistance of
Dr Bruce Imrie and Mr Brett Tony Illing
Clift is particularly acknowl- Selected Seeds
edged for editing this paper P.O. Box 210
Pittsworth, Qld 4356
Phone: (07) 7693 1800
Key contacts Fax: (07) 7693 1899

Mal Bennett Bruce Imrie

Department of Primary Industry CSIRO
and Fisheries 306 Carmody Road
P.O. Box 1346 St Lucia, Qld 4067
Katherine, NT 0851 Phone: (07) 3377 0238
Phone: (08) 8973 9739 Fax: (07) 3377 0410
Fax: (08) 8973 9777 Email:

A H A N D B O O K F O R FA R M E R S A N D I N V E S T O R S 367