Sesame / Gingelly farming Guide to Profit

India used to be one of the Largest producers of sesame. Today it stands between 3rd and 4th position in production. Sesame is a labour intensive crop. While the crop itself requires minimum labour, the harvesting is the most labour intensive part. There is little water requirements for this crop and its is not tolerant to waterlogging. It cannot be cultivated during monsoons and the best time to cultivate the crop is during spring. The transition of winter to summer period is the best time for sesame in most parts of india.

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Sesame is cultivated almost everywhere in india. Gujarat, west Bengal, Karnataka, Rajasthan Tamil nadu and madhya pradesh are prime sesame producing states. Gujarat leads the sesame cultivation contributing to approximately 22% of the total production. 

Cultivation of Sesame

Sesame is a 90-100 Day crop. From sowing to harvesting, the entire cycle takes less than 4 months. This is a perfect crop for the dry spells, usually between october and June. the perfect climatic conditions for sesame vary from tate to state. For tamil nadu and west bengal, february to June is the best time for sesame. For gujarat, its between october and January. Cultivating sesame requires you to know the right season for cultivating them. Monsoon or rains should be minimal for Sesame cultivation and this is important specially when its harvesting time. Summer with no rains at all is recommended during harvesting period. This enables the plants to shed its leaves and dry out just before harvest.

Varieties of Sesame. 

Sesame varieties are key to success for farmers. Every state has their own variety of sesame which is tested by agriculture universities. These varieties are feasible for the climatic conditions of the region. For instance the tamil nadu weather recommends TMV 3, TMV 4, TMV 6, TMV 7, CO 1, VRI (SV) 1, SVPR 1, VRI (SV) 2 and some more. Each of these varieties have a different set of characteristics and requirements. Some are white sesame while others are brown and black. Some have high yield and others are a bit less. The time from sowing to harvest also varies from variety to variety. The usual time period is between 80-110 days. The oil content in each variety varies too. They may vary from 30% to 45% oil content depending on the variety. 

Price for sesame depends on the quality of the sesame itself. Oil being the primary by product of sesame, with less than 40% of sesame used directly for culinary purposes, the oil content determines how the prices may vary depending on the variety. 

Average price of sesame in the market is approximately 7500 Rs- 11000 per quintal and upwards. This could easily vary 1.5 Lakh per acre on the higher side with a bumper crop. Average of 700 Quintals is usually noted.

Season and climate

Sesame accommodates to higher temperatures but to high or too low is bad for sesame. You are looking at 25-35 degree . anything lower than 25 degree in temperature will reduce yield and more than 35 degree will reduce the oil content. Almost all parts of india is suitable for sesame except for kashmir and cold areas. Rajasthan and gujarat has extremely high weather conditions during summer and winters. Chose the right time for planting sesame in areas where weather conditions are extreme. Also ensure that the plants are free from water logging. light Rains are tolerated during the first few weeks and may be even beneficial. Rains during harvest period will result in poor harvest and fungal problems in Sesame. Ensure that the harvest time is always near the warmer period of the weather.

Varieties

Some of the varieties with the yield have been published by the Directorate of oilseed Development, india. The savithri variety is notably the one with the highest yield and is suitable for west bengal region. An average yield between 1200 -1500 kg per hectare is recorded with this variety with an oil content of up to 52%. The crop takes approxiumately 84 days to harvest. A list of all varieties and the details by state are available on the respective websites.

Directorate of Oilseed Development : http://oilseeds.dac.gov.in/Variety/Sesame.aspx

Tamil Nadu : https://agritech.tnau.ac.in/agriculture/agri_seasonandvarieties_gingelly.html

Soil

Sesame cultivation prefers a near neutral soil condition. A ph level between 5.5 and 8 is tolerated. Soil should be free from water logging and there should be no issues of stagnant water. Sesame is very sensitive to water logging and plants are susceptible to fungal infections and rotting very quickly with water logging. 

Also note that rainfed crops yield lower than irrigated crops.

Seed rate

A seed rate of 5 KG per hectare is recommended by various agricultural universities including the TNAU. While a few farmers have found better success with lower seed rate, these have not been tested and recorded with reason of science. Seed rates vary a lot if sown or taking up raised row approach. 

Sowing

Depending on the landscaping, the sowing varies . for raised beds, the sowing is done on both sides of the bed at a distance of 30 centimeters. 8-10 seeds are sown at a distance f 30 cm per plant which is thinned out after 2 weeks of germination to reduce competition. For open farm like rice fields, its sown  with 50 KG of soil mixed with 5 kg of seed and distributed over the field. For rice fields which have the right humidity, sowing is done immediately after ploughing and levelled after sowing. The moisture in the soil should be enough to help with the germination of sesame. The sesame plants are later thinned out manually after the second week. A spacing of 30 centimeter between plants are maintained.

Manuring & Fertilizer

12.5 Tonne of Compost or Coir Pith Compost is applied before the first plough. 

23:13:13 NPK application is practiced on Rain fed crops and 35:23:23 NPK on Irrigated crops. 

Manganese is a common deficiency in Sesame. Application of 5 KG of manganese per hectare is recommended before sowing 

Application of Zinc , 5KG per hectare is recommended after soil test and in case of zinc deficiency. Application is usually done after sowing

Irrigation 

Sesame , specially in irrigated crops should be minimal. Sowing will require one irrigation.The second irrigation is after 1 week and is often referred to as life giving irrigation. Irrigation is not required after the first week till flowering. The flowering stage is crucial and will require irrigation. Your yield depends on this one or two irrigations during flowering. During pod setting, one or 2 irrigation is practiced depending on your area. After pod setting, there is no irrigation thereafter. The total irrigation for the sesame crop is 4-5 in the course of 3 months. Sesame is drought tolerant and can sustain itself with minimal water. 

Intercultural and intercropping

Sesame is very sensitive to weed growth and competition. The first 15 days should be crucial and weeding should be practiced on the 15th -20th day. Clearing the field of any weeds is crucial for the growth of sesame. Inter cropping of sesame with various other crops have been practiced since a long time. Common crops which are grown with sesame include urad, cotton, pearl millet, ground nut, Green gram, Pigeon pea and black gram.  Practice of intercropping and the combination plant is different to each state and the variety of sesame planted.

Sesame Cultivation profit.

The profit for sesame cultivation varies drastically depending on the variety of seeds, location and the season. Some varieties of the seeds can produce up to 1.5 tonnes per hectare while others produce only half of it. An average of 800 Quintals per hectare can be expected for sesame. Some areas do yield a bit lower than 800 quintals per hectare. Price for sesame averages between 80 Rs per KG to 115 rs per kg. An average price of 100 can be considered in this case. The biggest expense is in harvesting sesame. Sesame cultivation in india does not implement any mechanization. There are no harvesters used and the only equipment or machinery used is the tractor. With this limitation alone, Man power and labour is one of the biggest expense for sesame cultivation. With variation of labour cost differing from state to state, and often drastically, its almost impossible to put a final figure to the cultivation costs. You will surely need to adjust the labour cost, yield per acre based on the variety based on the season you sow the sesame seeds. This will give you a ballpark figure of what you can earn. The up side to sesame cultivation is the season and the low investment when it comes to irrigation and maintenance. 

Seed CostRs 2000
Land Preparation4000-15000
Weeding & Thinning15000
Fertilizers & Pesticieds15000
Labour for harvesting40000
Irrigation2000
Other costs5000
TotalRs. 83000-94000

Earnings

Cost per QuintalRs10000
Yield per hectare7 Quintal
Total Income70000
LossRs.13000

The above cost is calculated based on the labour in kerala which approximates to rs.300 per day. Costs for labour vary in different states. Labour in Uttar pradesh and West bengal are much lower and nearly half that . The production of sesame in these areas are far more profitable and the profit can be calculated at approximately 50,000rs per acre . Note that this is due to the weather condition which is very well suited for sesame, the seed which are just right for the location and also the season of planting . 50,000 Per hectare during the dry spells when nothing else can be efficiently grown is a bonus for the farmers. 

Unfortunately, this is not the case with all states. States like kerala have a higher labour cost and are not perfectly suitable for sesame crops. Moreover, there are a lot of alternatives which are higher in profit when its compared to sesame. 

This is not to say that it cannot be farmed or its not profitable. Sesame is highly profitable. You can earn an extra 50,000 Rs per hectare during the dry spell as a third crop even in kerala. The seeds can be stored for up to a year, which makes it feasible to sell the produce when the price is right. Chances of losing a lot of money is even lesser if you time your sale appropriately.