Sesame Seeds Production Guide

Sesame oil is used in salad and cooking oils, as well as shortening, margarine, and detergent. It is frequently referred to as the "queen" of vegetable oils. Sesame oil is notable for its stability and keeping quality, as well as its resistance to rancidity. Paints, soaps, cosmetics, fragrances, and pesticides all contain sesame oil. The most common application is on top of buns and in snack foods.

The crop should be preferably grown under a double-cropping system with short duration cotton or wheat crop as a relay over the winter season after the completion of the paddy crop

Agronomic Characteristics/Description:

Sesame (Sesamum indicum) is a broadleaf summer crop that belongs to the Pedaliaceae plant family which has bell-shaped flowers and opposite leaves. Sesame is an erect annual plant that can reach 1-2 meters in height when planted early under high moisture conditions.

Flowers appear about 38 – 45 days after planting with 2 flowers per stem per day for about 35 – 40. Some varieties have 6 flowers per stem per day for 25 – 40 days. Sesame is indeterminate in that it does not have a capsule on the last node.

In some parts of the world, the plants will continue blooming until cut. The cycle of flowing is dependent on heat units and the availability of moisture and fertility. Higher heat units will accelerate maturity. In dry weather or under low fertility the plants will stop blooming sooner.


Most capsules split open at maturity but the indehiscent capsule will not. Indehiscent, seamless, and shatter-resistant lines will not have the seed drop out when the plant is inverted. There are approximately 50 to 80 seeds per capsule. The first capsule is located 0.5 -1 meters from the ground, depending on moisture, fertility, variety, and temperatures.

It is highly drought-resistant and grows best in areas where cotton does well. Sesame is a very leafy plant that terminates and self-defoliates without cold weather.

Areas of Adaptation:

Soil preference

Sesame is adapted to fertile, well-drained soils and is not salt tolerant. Medium textured soils are most favorable. Sesame prefers neutral to slightly alkaline pH, with moderate fertility. Sesame does not like heavy clay soils or irrigation water containing high concentrations of salt.

Length of the growing season

Because sesame is of tropical origin, it performs best in areas where temperatures remain high throughout the growing season. Seeds do not germinate well when soil temperatures are below 21 degrees Celsius, and plant growth is retarded by cool temperatures even after the stand is established.

Growth and fruiting are favored with average daily temperatures in the range of 28 - 31 degrees Celcius. The plant will shed blooms if it is stressed for moisture. If it has been stressed for moisture and is irrigated late, some varieties will shed blooms for several days.


Sesame varieties are grown commercially require 90 to 110 days from planting to reach physiological maturity. The upper limit is for areas where there are lower heat units accumulated during the growing season. Another 20 to 40 days are needed to allow the plant to dry down for harvest.

Fertilizer Requirements

Sesame is not a poor-land crop. Applying a balanced commercial fertilizer at planting time is required for satisfactory production on soils of low to moderate fertility. Fertilizer rates and ratios are similar to those recommended for cotton on the same soil. Side dressing with a nitrogen-bearing fertilizer may be necessary when growing plants that are unthrifty and light green in color.

Sesame will require approximately 18-36 kgs of nitrogen per acre on irrigated production and 10-27 kgs of nitrogen per acre on dryland production. A large amount of nitrogen is taken up by the plant during flowering and the crop responds well to foliar feeding. Apply phosphorus and potash according to soil test. High phosphorus levels in saline soils may decrease sesame yields

Water-Irrigation Needs

Sesame is one of the most drought-tolerant crops in the world and should do well in areas of 16 to 18 inches of annual precipitation. It will respond to irrigation if applied properly. It prefers fast, light irrigations (i.e., short runs or some slope).

Excessive moisture is not beneficial and extended periods of rainfall and/or high humidity may cause leaf diseases. Plants standing in water for more than a few hours may be killed.

Watering should be discontinued when flowering stops (70 – 80 days depending on variety).

If a dry period occurs prior to planting plan on heavy pre-irrigation. Then follow with the next irrigation 4 to 5 weeks later (watering up or watering back to help a poor stand seldom works). Two to three additional irrigation may be needed; the application should be made every 7 to 12 days unless there is rain. When the plants show leaf droop by 2 PM, the sesame will benefit from an application of water in the next few days (dependent on soil texture).

Pest Management:

Major insect pests and their control

Green peach aphid, (cotton aphid does not affect sesame), thrips, grasshoppers, cutworms, and whitefly are the most common insects attacking sesame. When these insects are bad, plants may not set sufficient capsules. Grasshoppers generally do their damage to areas of the field adjacent to rangeland.

Major disease pests and their control

Diseases do not cause much commercial damage on sesame, but they may increase when acreage increases. A bacterial leaf spot is most likely to cause trouble. Fusarium wilt can be a serious problem in fields previously planted in sesame. The current sesame varieties have a tolerance to Fusarium. Farmers have planted sesame on fields with serious cotton root rot problems and have never seen the problem. However, there is a root rot (Phytophtora parasitica) that does attack sesame. Verticillium wilt also attacks sesame.

Major weeds and their control

There are no herbicides or pesticides labeled for sesame.

Herbicides, such as trifluralin (Treflan), are commonly used and incorporated prior to planting. Rates of 0.75 ai/A, 0.50 ai/A, and 0.35 ai/A are recommended for trifluralin on clay, silt, and sandy-loam soils.

Shallow cultivation may be an acceptable method of weed control. Several shallow tillage operations kill early germinating weeds before planting, with between-the- row cultivation after emergence.

Keep fields as clean as possible of Johnsongrass, wild cucumber, sunflower, and ground cherry. These seeds are difficult to clean out of sesame. Sesame delivered with these seeds are subject to price discounts.

Sesame is very sensitive to herbicide bands in cool or wet weather. Sesame tolerates Dual, Fusilade, Poast, Select, and some Prowl/Treflan. Sesame does not tolerate Atrazine, Caparol, Paraquat, Pursuit, Roundup, Cadre, and 2-4D. In some years sesame can follow Cadre in peanuts, but in dry years there have been carry-over effects on sesame.

There have been mixed results with wheat herbicides such as Amber, Gleen, Ally, Finesse, and Assert. Some farmers have planted after using these herbicides with results ranging from little effect to complete eradication of sesame.


The sesame seeds become ready for harvesting within 3-5 months after planting the seeds (exact time depends on the variety).

But in most varieties, you can expect to harvest when the leaves, stems, and capsules begin to turn yellow and the lower leaves of the plant start shedding.


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