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All the latest news on Starke Ayres’ vegetable seed varieties, and the success that commercial vegetable seed farmers have achieved using them.

This page will also be updated with new seed variety releases and other commercial seed industry news.

Terms and Conditions for Starke Ayres Competitions

Terms and Conditions for generic competitions run in various retailers within South Africa.

Open/View: Terms and Conditions for generic competitions _ Sept2018


STAR 8023 turns up the heat in Pongola

Husband and wife team Mechiel and Rina Radley from Pongola have been farming in the area since 2001. This region of Northern Natal is better known for sugar cane production than for vegetables but the warm winter conditions make it one of the few places in the country that can produce frost-sensitive crops throughout the year. The Radleys started planting marrows on a commercial scale about 8 years ago and production is concentrated between  March and Sept. The variety that they settled on is STAR 8023 because of its’ uniform, cylindrical fruit shape and consistently good yields. The Radleys plant around 30Ha annually and this makes them significant producers.


Mechiel prefers to use a relatively high plant population and an average yield of 18-24 fruits per plant is achieved.  He feels that the drip irrigation he uses on all the blocks along with accurate and timely fertilizing of the plants are the main keys to their success.


Pongola experiences little or no rain during the production period and this means that it is possible to apply irrigation and nutrients very accurately without having to allow for leaching losses. The product is of such quality that top-end chain stores and pre-packers can confidently be supplied.



SAPPHIRE, THE large- framed summer cabbage.

SAPPHIRE is a summer cabbage that has been part of the STARKE AYRES cabbage range for close to 4 years. During this time it has shown itself to be an excellent summer cabbage with high yield potential. The variety can withstand hot summer conditions and produces a large upright frame and head and is suited for the loose-head hawker market as well as the bagging market.  SAPPHIRE has a blue- green colour with very good uniformity and field holding capability.  Average head size ranges from 5 to 7kg.  This variety is specifically for growers looking to produce a large cabbage in the summer slot and will pleasantly surprise growers with its consistent quality.


SAPPHIRE is a variety that is best suited for the summer-autumn harvesting slot and takes approximately 85-95 days to maturity in summer (area and climate dependent).  Ideally SAPPHIRE should be sown from August to February.  Contact your sales representative or regional STARKE AYRES office for an excellent deal on SAPPHIRE for this summer!



Long term storage of onion bulbs can be a complex procedure requiring specialized facilities. In most cases, South African producers use elements of both traditional and modern methods. In Northern Europe particularly the practice of pulling onions and letting them dry in windrows is rare. If bulbs get wet and remain so during this stage, dark stains appear on the scale leaves. This is caused by increased microbial activity and leads to quality loss. In regions where this is a problem, most bulbs are harvested directly. With this method, leaves are removed by a flail 8 – 10cm above the bulb and left for a few hours to allow any sap to dry. The bulbs are then lifted, taken to a store and piled not more than 4 m high (figs.1and2). Any more than this can result in damage to the lower layers. Mechanical damage must be minimized by covering sharp parts of machinery and padding any drops. (Fig 3) Surface moisture is removed by blowing warm, dry air through the heap. Once surfaces are dry, air is re-circulated until necks are closed. Outside air is only introduced when relative humidity exceeds 75%. Once the drying is complete, the store temperature is reduced for long term storage. Relative humidity is maintained at 75-80% to prevent cracking of the outer skins. Any condensation of water on the bulbs at this stage causes staining and a reduction of quality.

In most South African cases, bulbs are dried in windrows or heaps in the field, clipped and then taken to stores. Most of these stores have fans that force ambient air through the piles to prevent moisture build-up. Long-term storage is not common practice in the Northern regions as most varieties produced are short day varieties not suited to this purpose. These bulbs are usually cured in the field and marketed soon after this. Short – term holding in bulk bins is common but only for short periods. Longer- term storage is most common in the Western Cape with central areas a mix between the two.



Starke Ayres has always placed great value on the quality of products supplied to customers. On the 1st March 2013 the company opened the doors of the new Quality Assurance Laboratory facilities at the Head Office in Kaalfontein, South Africa. This had become necessary as the old facility had become unable to handle increased volumes of work. An objective from day 1 was the achievement of an International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) accreditation. Such accreditation means that high standards are continually maintained and are independently audited on a regular basis. It also allows the laboratory to issue certain quality certificates necessary for the export of seed. This in turn will allow Starke Ayres to deliver a more speedy and efficient service to clients in other countries.

In December 2013 laboratory manager Lucele Pretorius attended an ISTA Quality Assurance Workshop in Switzerland and this led to the introduction of a Quality Management System. The Starke Ayres Quality Assurance Laboratory became ISTA members on the 1st of January 2014 and participated in the ISTA proficiency testing that same year. The Laboratory achieved “A” ratings for all tests participated in.

On the 1st December 2016 an audit was conducted by ISTA representatives Rita Zecchinelli as lead auditor and Irena Gera as technical auditor. Findings contributed to improvements in the Quality Management System and the experience was also of great value to the employees involved in the preparation and execution of the audit.  This team consisted of the laboratory manager, two seed analysts, five laboratory assistants and five accredited samplers.

The scope of accreditation now enjoyed by the Starke Ayres Quality Assurance Laboratory includes manual seed sampling, purity testing, germination testing, other seed determination and weight determination on grasses, cereals, small legumes, pulses, other agricultural crops, vegetables, flower species and coated seeds.

The successful ISTA accreditation of the Starke Ayres Quality Assurance Laboratory underlines a commitment to quality and to ensure that only seed of the highest quality is supplied to our valued customers. In celebrating our 140 years of existence, we are proud to be an accredited member of ISTA.


Prospect Tomatoes

When Starke Ayres and Prospect Tomatoes started working together it was the beginning of a long-standing relationship.The farming operation was started by Mr Cecil Dalbock as long ago as 1958 and the business took its’ name from the farm where he first produced tomatoes. The first plantings were on dry land and these later progressed to sprinkler irrigation. This was changed to drip irrigation in 1970 which represented a huge step forward at that time. Varieties such as Money maker, Indian River and Homestead were the standards. These plantings were untrellised with no thought of plastic mulch. What a difference over half a century makes!

Cecil refers with fond memories to those days and remembers well his interactions with Starke Ayres. He has enjoyed many good years of technical support and effective business interactions. New and improved varieties are constantly being introduced and many of these were tested by Prospect. Varieties such as STAR 9008, STAR 9006, STAR 9037 and NADINE have all found places in the programme over the years. Nadine in particular produced consistently top yields over many years of open field production. These crops had “long legs” and grew very well under the management of the Prospect team.

Early in 2005 Prospect took the bold decision to move production under protection and started building glasshouses. The move was a huge success resulting in record crops of up to 450 tons/Ha. As often happens in farming new problems arise just as things are going well. In this case it was the appearance of Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus (TYLCV) and a quick solution was needed to ensure continued production. This solution was provided by the STARKE AYRES variety LINARES which had just given excellent trial results. By using this and other resistant varieties, Prospect could continue producing top crops. This scenario demonstrates the importance of a dynamic range of products and effective testing. The STARKE AYRES tomato range is constantly developing and continues to offer solutions.

Mr Dalbock has a very positive outlook towards farming and he regards this as key to success. He feels that production and marketing must play integrated roles for the benefit any farming enterprise as a whole. To farm successfully and produce consistently good crops is a team effort from the seed supplier through production to marketing. STARKE AYRES is committed to being part of this team, giving support and always having the customers best interests at heart. Well done to the Prospect Team, we look forward to seeing more growth and innovation, walking the road alongside your team!



Congratulations to all the winners at our 33rd annual Sales Conference.

Open/View: 2017 Conference winners SMALL


BONNY – year rounder for the Cape.

The cauliflower variety BONNY has been a dominating force in the Western Cape crating market for many years.  BONNY is a very adaptable variety and can be planted throughout the year in the Cape Peninsula area. The strong frame of BONNY makes it ideal for the loose crating market and high stacks can be packed on market floors without damaging the product. The advantage to the grower is that these impressive stacks sell quicker at higher prices. BONNY has a good general disease resistance and curd quality is outstanding due to this and its’ protective wrapper leaves. The curd has a pure white colour which is much sought after by consumers. BONNY will mature at around 70 days after transplant in mid-summer and at up to 110 days in the cold of winter. BONNY shows good heat tolerance which allows for production through the hot and dry summer months. This feature limits physiological disorders such as riceness and bracting during this period.  BONNY is without doubt a variety to rely on.


DIAMOND sparkles in KZN

DIAMOND is fast becoming the country’s preferred pre-pack broccoli. Leading producers in all regions are incorporating DIAMOND into their growing programmes as they acknowledge the multiple benefits of the variety.


One such grower is John Salgado who is based in the Tala Valley of kwa-Zulu Natal province.  After a season of trialling the variety, John now grows DIAMOND commercially.  The main benefits of planting DIAMOND for John include quickness to maturity, uniformity and a very smooth dome shaped head which makes the product look extremely attractive to potential customers.  John was particularly impressed with the fact that DIAMOND could be harvested at least a week earlier than a major opposition variety. There is simply no better pre-pack broccoli currently available in South Africa than DIAMOND.  Make the switch, see the benefits and reap the reward!


DIAMOND is a broccoli adapted for year round production (area and climate dependant).  Maturity is between 60-70 days in summer and 75-95 days in winter (area and climate dependant).  The variety has a medium green colour and a very smooth dome shaped head that can be cut very low at the base, making it an ideal pre-packer.


Image:  Heinrich Kleyn (left) with Mr. John Salgado proudly displaying the high quality DIAMOND being harvested



CRISTALINA has been available for some time and has delivered excellent results wherever it has been used. It was planted for the first time on the farm Geluk in the Crecy district in 2016 and gave an outstanding performance. The crop was sown on heavy clay soil on 4 March and started to fall by the end of July. The bulbs were lifted from 5 August onwards and clipped by 5 September after which marketing began. This sowing date is the optimal slot for the area and no bolting was seen. The crop was sown at a density of 820 000 seeds/Ha and the final yield achieved was 94.12 tons/Ha. Mr.C.P.Kloppers was the manager of this exceptional crop and ascribes the result to attention to detail and daily monitoring. This allows quick response to any potential problems. An important tool used in this case was the leaf analysis taken every two weeks. Any nutrient shortage or imbalance could then be addressed by the use of foliar feeds. The results are clear from the accompanying pictures! Onion yields such as this do not simply happen, congratulations to the team that accomplished it.


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