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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.

Pinnacle of Gem Squash Production.

The gem squash PINNACLE was introduced some while ago and despite limited seed availability made a big impact on the market. The variety has intermediate resistance to Zucchini Yellows Mosaic Virus and Powdery Mildew. Uniformity of fruit size and colour is good and productivity has been seen to be very high. Plant growth habit is less prone than other varieties and this makes early access easier (Fig.2) One of the first growers to plant Pinnacle on a large scale is Pieter Zietsman of Zietsman Boerdery in the Tom Burke area. The meticulous management practices applied by Pieter and farm manager Emile du Plessis are evident in the accompanying pictures. Grown through winter on the farm Berné, this block was sown in late April and early May and harvest was from the 1st week of June until late September. The block delivered a total yield of well over 40t/Ha marketable fruit. This is quite remarkable for a crop that more commonly delivers closer to 25t/Ha. The dark fruit gives a very attractive final product when packed (Fig 3.) Smaller fruit showed good enough form and colour to be used for the baby gem market. Pinnacle has the potential to become the leading gem squash variety in South Africa. Together with the established STAR 8001, Starke Ayres is in the unique position of being able to offer a choice of hybrid gem squash varieties.


Starke Ayres expanding into Africa

04 February 2015

Dear Valued Customer,

Starke Ayres South Africa is both excited and proud to announce that we will be opening an office in Nairobi on March 1.

As you know Starke Ayres seed has been available to Kenyan growers through Pannar for many years.  However, we believe that customers such as yourself and the East African market as a whole are extremely important to us and have decided to set up our own office to better service our growing client base in the region.

Our new office, will be headed by Josphat Njoroge.  He is available to answer any questions that you may have and can be contacted on his mobile - +254 700 456 248, landline +254 (0)20 665 9960 or +254 (0) 20 665 9961 and by email -

Physical address:

Godown no. 8 L/R 15130

Mombasa Road



We look forward to introducing you to our seed experts. Starke Ayres has put in place a highly knowledgeable and experienced sales team that can advise you on the best vegetable seed selections for your individual growing conditions and marketplace objectives. In addition, our product advisors, who are experts in their particular crop ranges, are committed to providing you with on-going advice and support.

Starke Ayres specialises in supplying vegetable, turf grass and flower seed varieties. We strive to produce seeds of the highest purity and germination capability. This is ensured via both rigorous quality control and our own breeding programmes which are, in turn, supported by extensive research and testing. 

However, we believe that it is our after-sales service that sets us apart. This moves beyond conventional efficiencies to actively building relationships with our customers. That is because we feel it is crucial to work in partnership with you and assist you to better serve both regional markets and export markets in the United Kingdom and Europe which have particularly rigorous quality standards in place.

I would like to assure you that, through our team of professional representatives, we will always be on hand to provide you with the best quality seeds, backup, support and personalised, specialised advice.

For more information, please visit


Kind regards,

Bryan Featonby-Smith


Open/View: PRESS Starke Ayres Advert for Africa


Making a difference - Proudly South African

Heritage day celebrations - proudly South African Companies.  Together we CAN make a difference.

(Credit to Dunlop Roadtrip Adventures)


Seed brings hope


Starke Ayres Seed was used in this kind pay it forward initiative.


Fresh from the herb garden

Johan du Preez, aka Panda, is a familiar face in the nursery world.  He is a nursery specialist for seed supplier Starke Ayres, but also happens to be a qualified chef.  By giving demonstrations and talks at nurseries and garden clubs, he has combined both of his passions – gardening and food.  His talks are thoroughly entertaining as he explains how to sow herbs and veggies from seed, and then cook with the freshest of ingredients.  He shares his favourite potjiekos recipe with us.


Lamb Shank Potjie

Use a number 3 potjie pot for this recipe.


1kg lamb shank, cut into pieces

15ml cooking oil

250g onions sliced

Salt and Pepper to Taste

500ml beef stock, warmed

500g potatoes, peeled and cut into slices

250g young baby marrows and small mushrooms (if big, cut into slices)

4 Spring onions, chopped

250g baby corn

250g patty pans

3 baby butternuts

250g bite-size peppers

250g tomatoes, skinned and chopped

5ml origanum

Pinch of ground cloves

1ml paprika

15ml Fresh rosemary, chopped

2 bottles of Knorr Honey and Mustard sauce


Brown the lamb shanks in warm cooking oil.  Add the onions and stir.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the warm beef stock to the lamb shanks.  Add the vegetables on top of the meat in the following order:  First the potatoes, then the baby marrows, baby corn, butternut, patty pans, bite-size peppers, mushrooms and spring onions.  Add the chopped tomatoes on top of the vegetables.  Sprinkle the Origanum, cloves, paprika and rosemary over the top.  Cover the pot and cook for 1,5hours, or until the meat and the vegetables are almost done.  Add the two bottles of Knorr Honey and Mustard Sauce.  Cover the pot and cook for a further half hour.  Don’t stir too much.  Serves 4 – 6 people.

Open/View: Panda potjie


Brassica stunting disorder: a real threat to sustainable cabbage production in South Africa.

Over the last three years, cabbage farmers across large sections of South Africa have observed a new disease called ‘Brassica stunting disorder’. This anomaly has been observed since 2012, mainly in the Brits area, but has spread throughout the country and now occurs in most of the cabbage producing regions (Fig. 1). The disease is characterized by stunted plants, flattening and occasional purpling of the leaves, side shoot development, vascular discoloration in the stem and the midrib of leaves, poor root development, low yield and quality of the final product. This reduces market value of the crop (Fig. 2). Disease incidence varies with season and variety.  In some cases up to 90% incidence has been seen. The disease has also been recorded on broccoli and cauliflower crops, but incidence on these crops is much lower.

From the high disease incidence reported and the rapid spread of infection across the country over the last 3 years, it is evident that effective control measures are needed to ensure continued sustainable production of Brassica crops by both commercial and subsistence farmers. To this end, six industry members (Bayer, Klein Karoo Seed Marketing, Sakata, Starke Ayres, Syngenta and the Seedling Growers Association of South Africa) have partnered with researchers from the University of Johannesburg to investigate Brassica stunting disorder. The most important questions that the study will aim to answer are the identity of the disease-causing pathogen and its mode of transmission, followed by the development of a molecular detection technique. This information will then be made available to the industry as well as directly to farmers so that effective disease management practices can be developed.

To learn more about the problem, a field trial was set up in Brits area over a period of four months (March-June) in 2014. This region was chosen due to high disease incidence of the problem. The disease progression was monitored throughout the season on a susceptible cabbage variety, grown in the open field and within cages covered with insect proof netting. The predominant insect species were monitored with the use of blue and yellow sticky traps that were placed in the field and cages. The first symptoms were observed in the uncaged plants four to six weeks after transplanting. It was seen that plants could be infected at different stages, with the disease severity being greater following early infection. Plants infected at early stages (between 4-6 weeks) displayed severe symptoms, including stunting, flattening, purpling of leaves, increased side shoot formation and no head formation. Those plants infected later in the season did produce heads but these showed clearly reduced size when compared to heads from uninfected plants (Fig 3.)

A comparison of open field plants and those from inside the cages showed that the disease causing pathogen is not seed, soil or water-borne. Little or no infection was seen inside the cages, whereas 90% of the plants grown in the field were infected. The most likely vector of the disease therefore seems to be a flying insect. The most predominant flying insects observed during the trial were various species of leafhoppers (Aconurella, Austroagallia, Delphacid, Exitianus, Circulifer/Nesoclutha) and whiteflies (Trialeurodes vaporariorum). The information generated in the field trial served to narrow down the possible list of insect vector species. The study will now aim to identify the specific vector species in a similar field trial that is planned for the 2015 growing season.

The key remaining question is the identity of the disease causing pathogen and this has proven to be more difficult question to answer.  One of the main challenges in identifying the pathogen responsible is the presence of numerous different potentially pathogenic microorganisms on the diseased cabbages collected from the field. The study is currently attempting to isolate the specific pathogen by transmission of the infectious agent from diseased cabbages to healthy cabbage seedlings under pathogen and insect free conditions by sap and graft inoculation and dodder transmission. To date, successful transmission of the infectious agent has been achieved by sap inoculation (Fig 4.). Currently attempts are being made to identify the disease causing pathogen by two different methods. Firstly, visual comparison of sap inoculated and non-inoculated control plants by electron microscopy, a technique capable of revealing microorganisms inside diseased tissue. Secondly, the genetic material isolated from the inoculated and non-inoculated control plants are compared by a technique called Next Generation Sequencing, in an attempt to pinpoint the genetic material of the pathogen present only in symptomatic cabbages. Upon identification of the infectious agent, the study aims to develop a molecular detection technique that will be used to further monitor its’ spread. This will assist with identification of the insect species responsible for disease transmission and also with the identification of weeds that may be reservoirs for this pathogen.

Taken together, the information generated in this study will provide both farmers and the broader agro-industry with the tools to develop and implement various management strategies, such as improved cropping practices, producing effective barriers against the vectors or the use of appropriate pesticides to control the specific vector populations, or possibly the development of more resistant cultivars.


Open/View: Brassica stunting disorder


Watch out! Here comes Trinity...

Since the outbreak of Tomato curly stunt virus (ToCSV) in South Africa a number of years ago (ToCSV is part of the same family as Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV)), the industry has faced serious challenges. South Africa is a country with high bacterial and fungal disease pressures, and the added burden of this virus puts more strain on already embattled growers. Many varieties launched during this period were selected from foreign breeding programmes and had resistance to TYLCV. However, these varieties often lacked resistance to the other bacterial and fungal diseases endemic to the country. During this period the Starke Ayres tomato breeding programme focused on developing varieties which combined viral, fungal and bacterial resistances.

The English word "trinity" is derived from Latin word trinitas, meaning "the number three, a triad". This is an appropriate name for the new indeterminate round tomato launched by Starke Ayres. Previously known as the experimental variety TF 3393, Trinity possesses resistance to the three most important viral diseases in the South African tomato industry. These are Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) and TYLCV.  A recent trial at the University of Johannesburg where Trinity and susceptible lines were deliberately infected with ToCSV has confirmed Trinity’s excellent tolerance not only to TYLCV, but also to the South African ToCSV. Considered to be a breakthrough in genetics, Trinity was bred to include features such as high yield, fruit quality and the combination of multi virus with strong bacterial disease resistances.  The variety was intensively trialed and tested over four seasons in different segments across the country. Results were astounding and clearly indicated that the variety has huge potential for the future. Trials conducted in the Mooketsi region of the Limpopo province showed an increase in yield of 3 kg per plant over the standard variety (Star 9037). With more and more markets requiring medium sized tomatoes, Trinity falls firmly in this segment and produced an average fruit size of 149gm in the Mooketsi trial. Being highly adaptable to various climatic conditions, Trinity gives growers complete peace of mind. The variety performed exceptionally well in areas with high virus pressure when compared to susceptible varieties. It also proved to have field resistance to black stem, caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato. This is the causal agent of bacterial speck and symptoms are normally associated with cooler weather. From the first experimental trials it was clear that Trinity has to be pruned to a single or double stems. This allows the variety to reach its maximum potential with very high and uniform fruit setting.

After an extended and intense product development period, Trinity has finally arrived and will reduce risks for the tomato producer. Seed is commercially available through the Starke Ayres sales network.

Open/View: Here comes TRINITY


Johan du Preez - Garden Pavilion Rep of the year 2014

Congratulations to Johan du Preez who was named the Garden Pavilion Rep of the year at the recent Garden Pavilion conference. Johan has made a valiant effort on behalf of Starke Ayres and we thank him for all his hard work!


Blooming Good

Here at Starke Ayres, Spring has sprung!  With that in mind we have kicked off the season in blooming good fashion.

Nothing shouts Spring and Summer like a colourful garden and that is why we have specially chosen 6 firm favourite, easy to grow flower varieties.  The time to plant is now, so go with the Gardeners Choice and choose from Nasturtiums, Carnations, Marigolds, Impatiens, Petunias or Portulacas and your garden will be blooming in full colour before long.

If veggies are your thing you have to try our new Special Collection baby veg range.  Bite size Sweet Peppers, Thai Gold Baby Corn and Baby Emerald Squash will add variety and fun to your garden and your diet!

And finally for the more adventurous, our Squash Patty Mix or Bitter Gourd vegetable seeds will lead you on a culinary adventure.

So start planting now for a blooming, bountiful harvest!

Open/View: Starke Ayres Spring News 2014



Clearly visible is the growth of INVINCIBLE white pumpkin production in the Western Cape. INVINCIBLE is very tolerant of sunburn, has great internal quality and stores exceptionally well. White pumpkin production in South Africa has been given an INVINCIBLE boost by the introduction of a new variety featuring the concept of “Easy to Cut, Easy to Peel” with great taste. This unique variety is called INVINCIBLE and combines the quality characteristics of a grey pumpkin BUT with a white skin colour.

The advantage of the white skin colour is the improved tolerance to sunburn and this reduces grower risk significantly. Particularly important in areas where pumpkins are grown with vines, this tolerance allows a crop to remain on the land while grapes are harvested. INVINCIBLE also stores exceptionally well because discoloration of the white skin colour is much slower than with many grey pumpkins.

INVINCIBLE has a semi-bush growth habit with deep-flat shaped fruits and a thin, smooth skin. The flesh is much thicker and seed cavity smaller than most grey pumpkins. These features give INVINCIBLE an excellent size to weight ratio. This is one of the key aspects that attracted Preiss Visser of the farm Vorentoe to INVINCIBLE. Preiss has limited land available for pumpkin production and INVINCIBLE delivered for him a second year in a row. Preiss harvested 170 bins per hectare with an average weight of 5kg per fruit. Average fruit diameter was 28cm. Congratulations again Preiss with this excellent achievement.

Open/View: INVINCIBLE in the Cape


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