Local Farmers Turn to More Drought-Resistant Sesame Crop

Cotton is king here in South Texas, but in recent years, the drought has devastated that crop; so farmers have turned to another crop as a way to diversify.

The lack of rain has meant local farmers can plant tens of hundreds of acres of cotton and come up completely short, with not a stock of cotton to show for it. So they are trying to catch up a little bit with the secondary crop of sesame.

"You know, if we would have had a normal year, you wouldn't see a row of sesame this year," local farmer Jerry Vanecek said. "I'm going to say that probably 99-percent of the land that is sesame was planted behind failed cotton acres."

More and more farmers in San Patricio County are planting the sesame crop, which they say is more resilient, efficient, drought tolerant and less demanding than other crops local farmers have been producing for years.

"There's not a lot of input on sesame. You basically plant it and take care of some weed issues, and then you kind of walk away from it," said Justin Chopelas of Chopelas Farms. "I mean, there's some management that you could do to improve things, but for the most part, it's pretty, pretty low maintenance. So it does have a fit, if we continue to stay in these drier years like we've been in for the past 5, 6, 7 years. It may have a fit to fill a void."

"We can plant it with our regular planters," said Clarence Chopelas of Chopelas Farms. "We don't have to have special equipment and we can harvest it with our regular combine that we cut grain sorghum or corn with. Just have to set it different and it does a beautiful job just harvesting it, so it's really fantastic. We don't have to buy a whole lot of specialized equipment for it. Use the same stuff that we have already sitting at the barn."

The farmers said there are some 30,000 acres of sesame seed planted across the Coastal Bend.


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