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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.


Starke Ayres have launched two new seed packet mixes this Spring. Plant “Bee Favourites” to lure bees into your garden, and try the “Water Saving” variety which don’t require much water! And then, for the health conscious among us, buy the Starke Ayres new Salad Mix Econo packet, containing a variety of different salad ingredient seeds. Salad Econo Mix A salad combo Econo mix consisting of Lettuce, Tomato, Cucumber, Radish and Sweet Pepper seeds. The perfect sized seed packet for the home gardener bringing your salad straight from your garden to your table. Water Saving Mix A colourful mix of Alyssum Poppy, Cornflower and Cosmos flower seeds which do not require much water. Bee Favourites A colourful mix of Alyssum, Aster Powder Puffs, Sunflower and Forget Me Nots flower seeds which will attract bees to your garden.

Open/View: DJOB 156 The Gardener and Die Tuiner September English



Congratulations to the Region of the year.  Southern Seed!

For more winners, view the attached document.

Congratulations to all and thank you for all your hard work and commitment.

Open/View: Sales Conference Award Winners 2015


Diva Goes under Cover.

DIVA goes under cover!

DIVA has proved itself an excellent sweet pepper variety over the past few years, performing well under protection as well as in open field situations. This past season DIVA has also excelled in the Eastern Cape, outperforming many established varieties.

DIVA is renowned for its excellent fruit quality, thick walls and uniform blocky shape. It maintains this shape and size throughout the growing cycle and this contributes to the high yield potential. DIVA has the ability to set fruit under difficult conditions and so produce profitable crops even under adverse circumstances. The fruit of DIVA develops from a dark green immature colour to an attractive bright yellow when mature. It has a medium size plant with good leave cover that protects against sun burn in open field productions. This hybrid should be trellised to ensure optimum yield.

DIVA was one of the top varieties in an Eastern Cape greenhouse production during summer 2014/15. It yielded an outstanding 16.21 kg of fruit per square meter compared to the 12-13 Kg achieved by the closest competitors. The producer was not only impressed by the yield potential and fruit quality, but also found the plant structure suited the existing management system very well. A medium sized plant is generally preferred over large, extremely vigorous plants which tend to grow quickly and produce a plant that is more difficult to manage.


Starke Ayres donation - Hope Farm/ School

A letter of thanks from Belinda associated with Hope School in KwaZulu-Natal. 


Hi there


I just wanted to thank you all so very much for the visit today.  It was really great to show you around and tell you of our future projects and ideas.


Starke Ayres as a company has been most kind to us and we wouldn't of been able to substitute the diets of 185 children with fresh produce if it wasn't for your very kind donation.


Once again, I am so happy that you took the time to visit. 


Warm regards



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


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