National research program promising $2 million to scale up Sesame production

AgriFutures Australia says it will invest $2 million into a new five-year national program of research to scale-up production of sesame as a high-value crop for growers

With the value of Sesame production worldwide predicted at $26 billion by 2025 a local $2 million investment has been allocated to attempt a grab at market share led by Dr Olivia Reynolds CQU

AgriFutures Australia points out that the rapidly growing global market of Sesame is predicted to hit $26 billion by 2025, and all of the Sesame consumed in Australia is currently imported from overseas.

The research and development (R&D) investment of $2 million has been designed to capitalise on the opportunity and boost the output of Sesame as an emerging local industry.

AgriFutures Australia Emerging Industries Program Manager, Dr Olivia Reynolds, said the applied research approach would address practical challenges including crop agronomy for maximum yield, customising machinery for planting and harvest specifications, and post-harvest processing.

Through research it is expected new Sesame varieties will be non-shattering and able to be harvested by equipment designed to capture more seed and more value for growers

“In supporting the industry to scale-up production it’s essential that farmers have the tools available to them so that sesame can fit within existing broadacre cropping systems,” Dr Olivia Reynolds explained.

“We see a strong future for Sesame in Australia with research to date demonstrating its suitability to a range of environments and its ability to perform under extreme climatic conditions, as well as the fact that at $2000 a tonne at farmgate it is an attractive commercial proposition.

”AgriFutures Australia is dedicated to growing the future of Australian agriculture and the long-term prosperity of rural industries through investing in research, innovation, and leadership development.

“The national program of research will be led by Central Queensland University Australia (CQU), in collaboration with universities, State and Territory governments, commercial seed companies, farm machinery and seed processing businesses, and farmers from across the country,” Dr Olivia Reynolds added.

The program of research will address six themes to get Sesame growth started:

•       Crop protection – to understand the diseases and weeds of sesame and their management, and extend this knowledge to industry.

•       Nutrient, irrigation and water management – to understand and extend to industry nutrient cycling under different water and nitrogen regimes.

•       Farming systems and modelling – to inform the adoption of sesame crops into existing Australian farming systems.

•       Southern production – to assess and articulate the adaptability of growing sesame in southern Australian farming regions (southern QLD, north and south NSW).

•       Crop establishment and harvesting mechanisation – to develop optimised planting and harvesting guidelines for sesame production in Australian farming systems and provide this to industry.

•       Post-harvest seed storage and harvesting – to optimise seed storage and harvesting capability for industry.

 Over the last five years, CQU has led a series of sesame research activities, with the AgriFutures program to link with work underway through the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) for a comprehensive national approach.

More work needs to be done to integrate Sesame production into existing Australian farming systems

CQU research leader Dr Tieneke Trotter said the industry had now overcome many of its early challenges in gaining a foothold in Australia, with international seed companies now investing in developing a new production base.

“Sesame has traditionally been grown in tropical and sub-tropical environments, but as part of our research we will be investigating new genetic lines with a shorter growing season to expand the crop’s footprint into southern Australia,” Dr Tieneke Trotter explains.

“The new varieties that are coming through are non-shattering, which means harvest equipment should be able to capture more seed and more value for the farmer.”

Different sesame varieties produce either black or white seed, which can be sold as seed for human or animal consumption, processed into oil, paste (tahini) or flour, or used as a flavouring in confectionery.

Dr Olivia Reynolds said that with such diverse uses, it was important that the research consortium brought together players from all sections of the value chain.

“The collaborative program of research brings together the Australian Sesame Industry Development Association (ASIDA), growers, researchers, seed suppliers and seed processors, to carry out the research and solutions that will be practical in real-world conditions,” Dr Olivia Reynolds concluded.

To stay up to date with the sesame research program see more at Sesame | AgriFutures Australia.