Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

growing sesame - til - yellu

sesame (til in hindi and yellu in tamil) is mainly used for oil.
it is limited culinary uses as a grain.
we took a shot at growing yellu to meet our oil requirements.
sesame oil is called nalla ennai in tamil (translated as good oil).
it is one of the few oils which can be consumed raw (draw readers attention to the oil used to mix with the podi served along with idli).
it is also much more expensive than the popular edible oils.
and could be subjected to mixing with cottonseed oil (which could be from BT cotton).

so here is what we did - a story in pictures:
1. the designated field was already planted with sunn hemp - a common and popular green-biomass crop (sunn hemp is a legume and adds to the fertility to the soil through its roots).

2. it is cut and chopped down into small pieces.

3. and then mulched onto the soil and then ploughed in with the classic bullock plough.

a bullock-backside cam shot.

4. the seed is then sown (approx 100 gms) through a simple broadcast system. this was done on 29th jan (within 10 days of our first arrival at pR).

5. over the next 80 days it was watered around 5-6 times. we did no other operations (like weeding/de-weeding, fertiliser/pesticide addition).

6. at the time of harvest it looked like this - april 18th.
due to our own inexperience and other factors (inaccurate sowing and initial watering), the crop never looked optimal. but we are not greedy farmers, are we?

7. see how the stalk looks with the seed pods. these are carerfully chopped off from just above the ground (never uproot as the soil hanging onto the roots will find their way into the sesame)

after full clearance - the field.

8. it is piled up neatly like below with the pods facing the center of the tarpaulin/mat. it is covered with another tarp. it is allowed to remain like this for 4-5 days for the pods to mature and be ready to split open with a tap.

9. the covered pile is gently hit on the top with a stick. this breaks the pods and the sesame will settle to the bottom of the pile. (as this was done in our absence, we missed this part).

10. the seeds are gathered and then cleaned by winnowing.

11. and then we have the final harvested sesame. approx 3 kgs (inside sources reveal that we should have got at least 5-10 times this amount). this close up looks identical to the photo under point 4- but swear that they are seed and crop).

12. the leftover stalks and spread back onto the field.

what shall we do differently the next time?
1. sow in december
2. no ploughing.
3. prepare field with higher levels of humus infusion
4. mulch the field through the growing period to increase moisture retention and enhance micro-organism activity.
5. mix cropping sesame and a legume (like green gram, toor dal)

some of these techniques are already being tried in our ragi growing experiments.

we shall be converting this small quantity into oil and that's another post coming up in 2 months from now.


Ganesh said...

The hard work of the Pr team to transform a barren land into a sustainable productive land and also as place for a low carbon footprint way of life is commendable. Would love to visit you guys one day..good luck..

csm said...

thanks ganesh.

you can write to me on sriramskd AT gmail DOT com

Preeti Patil said...

hi sriram

we have sesame growing on the terrace now.... will share pics and results.

: )

best for next time!