Almost 1.6 million tons of sesame is traded each year across the world; that’s more sesame than cocoa. Domestic use in the U.S. is at 100,000 tons per year — and surging. In the Middle East, a tremendous amount of sesame is used for oil as an ingredient in tahini paste. Tahini is mixed with chickpeas to produce hummus. Likewise in the U.S., one of the fastest growing segments of the sesame business is tahini for hummus.

“This is not about hamburger buns,” says Ellington. “Each seed is 50 percent oil; and 50 percent protein. In a lot of foreign countries, it’s used to make tahini paste. The market is gigantic overseas, but the U.S. market is growing. We have to import 75 percent of what we consume.”


For photos of the Massey's sesame plantings, see Sesame spreading across farmland


Another huge plus for sesame: Wildlife doesn’t like it — wild hogs and deer won’t eat it. For farmers who have soybean crops ravaged by pigs and deer, sesame offers an option. Ellington says in addition to an absence of wildlife, insect troubles have been almost nil. “Another thing that is a major attraction: We don’t know of any insects that attack sesame. We haven’t found a worm, aphid, or stink bug in our sesame fields.”

But what are the drawbacks?

“Sesame needs to have good drainage,” says Wayne. “That’s probably its Achilles heel — drainage.” The weed hurdle can also be significant. All sesame varieties are conventional, and not glyphosate-resistant. “Dual Magnum and Select Max are labeled weed control options, but the labels must be read carefully. Pigweed can be a problem for sesame.”

“Weed control for sesame is still a question. You’ve got to be careful with your fields and your neighbor’s. The sesame can’t handle glyphosate so you’ve got to watch out for drift,” echoes Turner.

Despite weed questions, Turner believes Massey Planting Co., has found a sesame fit. “We think it will be a perfect rotation crop.”

Most farmers have pieces of ground with poor output and are often searching for a crop to match that difficult soil and make income. For hot, sandy land, where other crops tend to burn up every year, sesame has the legs to produce where other crops can’t.

“There are so many benefits to consider with sesame: doesn’t use much water; grows in poor soil; no new equipment is necessary; sits in the field for long periods at harvest; and wildlife won’t eat it,” says Wayne. “Sure, some people might think it’s way too good to be true — but it’s not.”


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For more, see

Photos: Delta farmland reveals secrets of Indian history

Photos: Legendary combine driver — Jesse Small

Photos: Meet one of America's youngest farmers

Photos: Hunting season on, beware the cottonmouth

Photos: Pigweed is the ‘Satan’ of resistant weeds

Photos: Shifting farmland with Robert Precht