The results are in and the top-performing black sesame varieties in a range of Northern Australian conditions have been identified, laying an important foundation stone in the quest to build a new high-value cropping industry.

As part of a CRC for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) project, CQUniversity assessed the performance of a series of black sesame varieties from AgriVentis Technologies at six different locations across Northern Australia, with yields ranging from 1.37 tonnes per hectare up to 3.04t/ha depending on variety and location.

The highest seed yield recorded in Biloela followed by Rockhampton, Katherine, Ayr, and Darwin. The lowest yield was recorded in Tully.

“The seed yield between the varieties varied significantly at Biloela, Rockhampton and Darwin, but did not differ between the varieties at Ayr, Tully and Katherine, showing a significant genotype by environment interaction,” lead research Assoc. Professor Surya Bhattarai said.

“Yields at all sites were significantly higher than the global average of 554kg/ha, but it’s important to remember that these results are from one year’s data only.”

The full results are contained in a technical report containing detailed measurements from each site on each variety’s yield, biomass, seed oil content and agronomic performance.

The trials are part of a three-year CRCNA project investigating the viability of five different spice crops – black sesame, fennel, kalonji, carroway and cumin – to determine their potential for large-scale production in northern broadacre environments.

Harvest of the four winter crop varieties will begin later this month with results to be released later this year.

The spice crops are being tested due to the booming global demand and increasing value of the international spice trade. The global black sesame crop was valued at US$6.5 billion in 2018 but is projected to reach US$17.77 billion by 2025.

The Australian market is following this global trend, importing increasing amounts of both raw sesame seeds and value-added sesame products.  In 2016 Australia imported 6740t of sesame and current trends indicate domestic demand will reach 9800t in 2025.

Encouragingly some sites exceeded the highest standards for oil quality, which is set by the Japanese market at 46% oil, with crops from Tully and Darwin both meeting this threshold for the premium market.

“The crop also produced significant biomass in the range of 3-10t/ha,” A/P Bhattarai said. “This volume of biomass also creates an opportunity for value-adding, with biomass waste able to be used for briquettes and harvesting of antioxidants.”

The next stage of research involves on-farm verification of selected genotypes from the first year for evaluation of the adaptability of the variety to local farming conditions.

“While the early results are encouraging, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed for full fledged production including weed control, optimisation of mechanical harvesting, and providing robust agronomic information especially concerning optimum planting times and density of planting on the different regions and density of planting,” A/P Bhattarai said.

Media enquiries

Michael Thomson, CQUniversity 0408 819 666

Carla Keith, CRCNA Communications Manager 0499 330 051