In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, a sesame plant grows in a field near Lake City, Ark. The crop's drought tolerance and a recently developed trait that lets it accommodate typical harvesting equipment are helping the seed gain a foothold in part of the southeastern United States. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)The Associated Press
In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, farmer Seth Towles is interviewed at his 160 acres of sesame growing near Lake City, Ark. Thousands of acres from Arkansas to Georgia and Florida are planted in sesame this year where cotton has traditionally been king. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)The Associated Press
LAKE CITY, Ark. – Farmers in the southeast United States are moving into sesame production, producing millions of seeds for tahini or hamburger buns even when there's a drought.
Sesame pods used to be so brittle that they had to handled gently, but new traits developed over the past decade let farmers use typical equipment to harvest them.
Thousands of acres from Arkansas to Florida and Georgia are now planted with sesame, expanding sesame's typical range of western Oklahoma and western Texas.
Farmer Seth Towles has 160 acres planted near Lake City, Arkansas. He says sesame is much cheaper to grow than cotton or soybeans because it takes less water and fertilizer.
Last year in Arkansas, a field that produced 1,000 pounds per acre would have brought in around $420 before expenses.