Large scale farming of sesame can be the effective means of mitigating the adverse impact of climate change coupled with the existing drought condition in the vast Barind tract.
Agricultural scientists and researchers opined that prospects of large- scale sesame farming on the fallow lands are very bright in the drought-prone area.
Agriculturist Rustam Ali Mondal said more than one lakh hectares of land remain fallow after harvesting transplanted Aman paddy in the high Barind tract comprising 10 upazilas of Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj and Naogaon districts every year.
He said there is an enormous prospect of producing at least one lakh tones of sesame valued at around Taka 300 crore from the fallow lands yearly and thereby, the country’s demand for edible oil could be fulfilled to some extent.
Meanwhile, farmers and agriculture officials in the region are expecting a bumper yield of sesame this season.
Mustafizur Rahman, Additional Director of Department of Agriculture Extension, said the pollination was well due to favorable weather condition and the plants are still unaffected by pest attacks or natural calamities.
Most of the plants have already passed the pod formation stage, he added. A good number of honey farmers set wooden hives alongside the oilseed fields, and it helped better pollination.
The farmers are showing interest in cultivating the crop on more areas of lands after getting its bumper yield and good prices in recent years, DAE officials said.
It requires lower production cost in terms of irrigation, fertiliser and labour compared to other Rabi crops, and less fertile lands, where other crops do not usually grow well, can be used for sesame cultivation, they said.
Usually farmers in the district grow local variety T-6 sesame. Bari Til-3, Bari Til-4 and Bina Til are also being cultivated in some areas as the DAE authorities are campaigning for cultivating high yielding sesame varieties invented by Bari between the gaps of potato and Aman paddy.
Sesame requires 70-80 days for attaining maturity and mid-February to mid-May is the optimum period for its cultivation.
Shah Jahan Ali, 45, a farmer of Premtali village in Godagari upazila, said he cultivated sesame on one bigha of land last year spending Tk 700 and got four maunds of yield.
“That time I made a profit of Tk 6,500. This season I cultivated sesame on two bighas of land,” he said.
Cultivation of sesame, requiring moderate irrigation only once, is easier and less costly than other crops but brings good profit, said Aminul Islam , 55, a sharecropper of Kakonhat village under the same upazila.
“Sesame farming between the gap of potato and Aman paddy cultivation periods helps earning additional money. It also makes the soil fertile,” said Rabiul Islam, who cultivated sesame on 1.5-bigha of land.
“We are motivating the farmers towards boosting sesame cultivation through the best uses of modern technologies in the area,” said Dr Shakhawat Hossain, Senior Scientific Officer of On Farm Research Division (OFRD) under Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI).
To this end, a project titled “Extension of Sesame Farming in bed-planting method in drought-prone area in climate changed situation” is being implemented.
He says there is no alternative to bring diversity in cropping system in the changed climatic condition and urged the farmers to extend their cooperation to sesame promotion in the dried area.