Cauliflower: Choosing the Correct Variety for the Season

Cauliflower is part of the brassica family and is therefore more suitable as a cool season crop. Over many years’ brassica breeders were able to develop new varieties that are suitable for warm season production. The newer generation cauliflower varieties are usually characterised by wrapper leaves that can better protect the white heads against yellowing and sunburn and very good uniformity when the heads are mature. The new varieties also speed up the time of harvesting which makes it more cost effective for the cauliflower producer.




Alston* is a fast maturing variety for pre-packing. Heads are white to ivory in colour and very dense to give a good head weight. The variety is very well adapted for production in all areas of South Africa with a very uniform first cut. Early maturity helps to cut input cost against longer growing varieties.


  • Alston* can be produced year-round in areas that are not prone to frost
  • Check the variety regularly for maturity as it is a very fast grower





Merton* is a new Sakata summer cauliflower. Plants are very vigorous with a strong root system and very good wrapping of heads. The heads are white to ivory in colour and can get very big if left on the production field. Merton* can be used for pre-packing and processing and works very well for floret cutting. Merton* is later maturing when compared to Alston*.


  • Mainly for summer production, but can be produced in cooler season in frost free areas






Eskimo is Sakata’s winter variety that produces very white, big heads. Can be used for pre-packing and processing markets. The heads have a very dome shape with good wrapper leaves. Plants have an exceptional upright growing habit and are very vigorous. Eskimo is a late maturing variety.


  • Eskimo is only suitable for winter production and must not be planted in the warm season.




Planting Guidelines : Cauliflower

Factors causing physiological disorders in cauliflower and broccoli :

  • Wrong sowing time
  • Cold temperature, especially below 7 degrees celsius
  • Excessive fertilisation of seedings
  • Cold grown seedlings
  • Oversized seedlings at transplant
  • Difference in temperatures between seedling nursery and farm
  • Growth checks caused by heat, drought, water logging and disease
  • Diurnal temperature swings



Sowing Guideline : Cauliflower



Factors causing physiological disorders in cauliflower :

  • Wrong sowing time
  • Cold temperature, especially below 7 degrees celsius
  • Excessive fertilisation of seedings
  • Cold grown seedlings
  • Oversized seedlings at transplant
  • Difference in temperatures between seedling nursery and farm
  • Growth checks caused by heat, drought, water logging and disease
  • Diurnal temperature swings



Butternut Seedlings

The practice of growing butternut from a seedling is nothing new and farmers have  taken advantage of this method for a number of seasons  now.

Planting times in KZN

The optimum  sowing and growing time for butternut in KZN is once the danger of frost has passed, soil and air temperature has lifted to allow for rapid germination and early growth, increasing temperature to allow for good vegetative growth, marginal temperatures once the plants begin to flower to allow for a balance between male and female flowers, low humidity and lots of sunlight to reduce disease pressure and fruit rot just before harvest – the question is – where is this place in KZN .

The Butternut Market

A market average on all fresh produce markets will tell you that the prices are best between  July and December, taking the optimum growing time into account and the market  opportunity that exists, planting early coming out of winter creates a window for farmers to exploit – one problem though – butternut seed needs heat to germinate and for early growth – rodents  love ungerminated seed lying in the ground waiting for soils to warm up, causing big losses and poor stands.

Temperature Guidelines

Soil – 15 degrees C and less – no germination.

15 degrees C constant – 20% germination.

18 to 20 degrees C – 7 days to germination.

20 to 28 degrees C is ideal and over 30 will have a negative  affect on germination.

Air –    13 degrees C and below no or very little growth.

18 to 28 ideal and over 30 will affect  growth and pollination.

Why plant seedlings

2 reasons :

1) catch the market

2) overcome early germin

ation and growth issues when it is still cool.

Butternuts take anything from 90 to 110 days to mature from seed depending on conditions at planting  and over the growing season. The period at germination  is critical, delayed germination  in a September sowing can prolong the season by 2 weeks, pushing harvesting  into late December early January and out of the good price zone.

For KZN farmers in the Weenen, Muden, Richmond and Tala Valley  planting seedlings in August and September is a good way to get around this problem and the Pongola, Mkuze and Coastal areas can exploit this in the May, June and July planting slot.

Over the past few years the market has shifted away from open pollinated varieties like Waltham to the new higher yielding, better quality hybrid varieties – Atlas, Cosmos, Pluto and Quantum. Hybrid seed comes at a premium and protecting your investment in the early season is another good reason to plant seedlings.

The benefits of planting seedling

Planting can be done slightly earlier  as the  seed will not be exposed to cold soil temperatures, the one week or so earlier in the market can make a significant  difference in price, germination loss due to direct seeding will also impact on plant population and final yield. The seedlings also have a head start on seed giving them an edge on the weeds.

Trial results from from a farmer’s day held at Sutherlands Seedlings

Plant Population – 14 000 plants / ha.

Waltham Seeded 80 %

germination – 14 tonnes / ha.

Waltham seedlings – 28 tonnes / ha.

Hybrid Seedlings Pluto – 41 tonnes / ha.

To conclude

Managing risk as best as possible and seeking out the best times to exploit the market together with planting hybrid varieties will give you the best returns possible.

Butternut seedling in soil pods

Butternut seedling from Mc Donald Seeds

Brassica Stunting Disease

Since 2012, Brassica farmers across diverse regions of SA have observed a new disease called ‘Brassica stunting disease’. The disease affects various Brassica species, but cabbages (Brassica oleracea var capitata) appear the most affected. The disease is characterized by stunted plants, flattening and sometimes purpling of the leaves, side shoot development, vascular discoloration in the stem and/or midrib of leaves, poor root development, low yield and low quality of the final product, thereby reducing the market value (Fig 1). The impact of BSD on cabbage production can be severe. If plants are infected at an early stage, their growth will be severely stunted and no head will be formed. If they are infected at a later stage, the size of the head produced will be greatly reduced and a black ring, due to vascular discoloration, will be clearly visible in the stem.

In order to identify the causal agent(s) of the disease, a research project was initiated at the University of Johannesburg in 2013. During infection trials carried out between 2014 – 2016, it was determined that BSD is not seed, soil or water- borne and is caused by a pathogen that is transmitted by a flying insect. In 2015, It was shown that a virus, called Turnip yellows virus (TuYV), transmitted by the green-peach aphid (GPA) (Myzus persicae) (Fig. 2), is associated with the Brassica stunting disorder. Furthermore, using a molecular detection technique (RT-PCR), TuYV was detected in all symptomatic cabbage plants collected from the Limpopo, Gauteng, North West, Kwazulu Natal, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga Provinces between 2013-2016.

The identification of TuYV in association with BSD in SA has been surprising as this is by no means an unknown virus in terms of Brassica crops. Turnip yellows virus, a single stranded RNA virus of the genus Polerovirus, family Luteoviridae.a wide range of aphid species, but M. persicae, the peach-potato or green-peach aphid, is regarded as the main vector very common in oilseed rape crops, formerly known as Beet western yellows virus (BWYV), is weed species. The virus is but also readily infects brassicas, including broccoli,cabbage, cauliflower,

It is spread by Brussels sprouts, turnips, swede, kale. It also infects lettuce, beans and many. TuYV has been found widespread in Europe, the UK and recently in Australia, in areas of intensive brassica production, where in some years, all plants in commercial crops are infected. However, unlike with BSD in SA, in the UK and Europe TuYV infection often goes unnoticed as the virus rarely causes clear symptoms. The virus does however dramatically reduce yields, especially when plants are infected early in the growing season.

BSD Host range in SA

In an attempt to determine the host range of BSD, eight Brassica species were evaluated in an infection trial in 2015 and 2016. Five species, including broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. var. botrytis L.), cauliflower (Brassica oleracea L. var botrytis), kale (Brassica napus) and canola (Brassica napus) showed typical BSD symptoms, but chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa), mustard (Brassica rapa L.) or oilseed radish (Raphanus sativus) did not. TuYV was also detected in all the symptomatic cabbages and other hosts screened in the trail using RT-PCR, but absent from all the uninfected plants.

BSD vectors in SA

During insect transmission experiments carried out in 2015, it was clearly shown that TuYV are effectively transmitted by M. persicae. Cabbage seedlings caged with aphids collected from the above mentioned field trial in 2015, developed typical BSD symptoms about 45 days later, whereas no symptoms were seen on the control cabbage plants. The presence of TuYV in the diseased cabbage as well as inside the caged aphids, was also confirmed using RT-PCR. GPA occurs widespread across the world and extremely polyphagous, feeding on over an estimated 40 different plant families including multiple arable crops. In addition to GPA, more than 30 other aphid species are known to occur in SA. In recent surveys to determine the most predominant aphid species present in two brassica production regions (Brits and Groblersdal; 2016 and 2017), aphid populations alighting in cabbage fields were monitored over a 14-week period using yellow bucket traps. A total of 30 different aphid species were collected, 26 different aphid species in Brits, and an additional 4 aphid species unique to Groblersdal. Although the same aphid species were collected in 2016 and 2017, there were significant differences in the total number of

aphids trapped and in the representative number of aphids from each species. In 2016, a total of 4476 aphids were trapped and in 2017, only 2834 aphids were collected. Of particular interest was the significantly lower number of M. persicae (the aphid species considered as the most important vector of TuYV) that was collected in 2017. In 2016, a total of 2639 M. persicae insects were collected, corresponding to 58% of the total amount of aphid samples collected, whereas in 2017 only 288 M. persicae insects were collected, accounting to only 10% of the total aphid samples collected. Most interestingly, disease incidences between the two years also differed significantly, i.e. 95% infection incidence in cabbages in 2016 vs 54% in 2017 and this variation in disease incidence seems to correlate with the lower number of M. persicae insects present in the cabbage field in the 2017 season. The presence of TuYV-in the collected aphids were also monitored using RT-PCR and a total of 14 aphid species, including M. persicae, Aphis spp., Acythosiphon kondoi and Rhopalosiphum maidis as the most predominant species, were positive for carrying TuYV and can be considered potential vectors.


Attempts at controlling TuYV infection in Europe and Australia, especially on Brassica napus (canola), include control of broadleaf weeds that act as virus reservoirs, manipulation of sowing dates to avoid exposure at the seedling stage to peak aphid flights, the use of more resistant varieties and the use of a imidacloprid seed dressing to provide early control of the aphid vector during the vulnerable seedling growth stage. Effective control measures of BSD on brassicas in SA are also currently being investigated. An infection trials, evaluating chemical control of the aphid vector, were carried out in 2017 on cabbages in Brits. The trial e

valuated a thiamethoxam seed treatment thiamethoxam and imidacloprid seedling drenches and(20 000 plants) and was based on natural, field infection in Brits.

Preliminary results indicate that the various chemical treatments reduced aphid infestation [based on total aphid counts on 60 plants per treatment over an 11 week period (Fig 3): seedling drenches (51 – 233 aphid count); seed treatment (269 – 1861 aphid count) in comparison to the untreated controls (3692 aphid count)] and reduced infection incidences on the treated plants [seedling drenches 8% – 15% infection; seed treatment 16% – 43% infection] in comparison to the untreated controls (54% infection) (Fig 4).

Please report occurrences of this disease to: If you have seen any of these plants infected with virus-like symptoms or require further information, contact Dr. Lindy Esterhuizen, UJ, via phone 011-559-3352 or email

Broccoli | Choosing the Correct Variety for the Season

Broccoli, which is part of the Brassica family are in effect a cool weather crop. Through breeding however, these crops have been developed with improved heat tolerance. This development has meant that brassicas can now be produced throughout the year choosing the right variety for the right season.

Sakata has several broccoli varieties available for the various planting seasons and producers must make sure that they plant the correct variety in a specific season to get the most out of their crop.



Ares* is a fast maturing pre-packing variety suitable for spring, summer and autumn sowing. The dark green coloured heads are dome shaped with a medium bead size. Ares* produces smooth heads with small to medium plants. Very uniform maturity for a first cut. Very adaptable for production in all areas of South Africa.

  • Only sow Ares* in late winter to end of summer
  • Do not plant Ares* in mid-winter in frost areas


Naxos* is Sakata’s new summer variety. Does very well when grown from cool to hot conditions. Naxos flourish in high temperatures. Plants are big with a strong root system. Heads are dome shaped with longer stems than other varieties. It’s a variety with good adaptability and with good holding ability. Heads sit deep in the plant so that the heads are well protected against damage from birds and wind. Dark green heads with small to medium beads

  • Only sow Naxos* from late winter to end of summer
  • Do not plant Naxos* in mid-winter in areas prone to frost



Parthenon is one of Sakata’s ‘new generation’ broccolis created as a result of extensive research and breeding programs. Parthenon has achieved a new level of quality with its exceptional characteristics and versatility. It is for these reasons that Parthenon is steadily capturing not only the European, but also the American broccoli market and is creating much interest within South Africa. Parthenon is a vigorous stout plant that produces large heads of excellent quality in cold weather. The heads are a high dome shape with very small beads of a dark blue-green colour. However, bead quality is adversely affected by warm weather. Parthenon is unlikely to develop anthocyanin (red pigment) build up and Hollow stem. Parthenon has very compact heads and thus excellent field holding ability, even if harvesting is delayed. Parthenon has an exceptional yield potential for both fresh market and processing. Excellent adaptability, reliability, quality and high yields make Parthenon the first choice for cool season production.

  • Parthenon is a large, strong plant with an excellent root system. It has been found to require less nitrogen than other varieties
  • Parthenon should only be grown in the cool season

Autry and Momentum – Bred to produce high quality premium peppers​

Trialed and tested by the McDonalds Seeds team, Autry and Momentum peppers offer thick walled blocky fruit for the bulk fresh, pre pack and processing markets.

Hardy and with growing features for optimal yield, they are particularly suited to open field and nethouse production.

Farmers looking to grow blocky peppers which offer high-quality fruit with excellent shelf – life are encouraged to plant Autry and Momentum F1 hybrid peppers.

Having noticed a high prevalence of phytophthora this season, a major benefit with the Momentum variety is intermediate phytophthora resistance.
Over and above this, both varieties provide protection from losses through their multiple disease resistance.

Autry offers resistance to Bacteria Leaf Spot 1-10, Tobacco Mosaic Virus, and intermediate resistance to Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus.

Momentum offers intermediate resistance to Phytopthora, Bacterial Leaf Spot race 1-3, Tobacco Mosaic, Cucumber Mosaic , Tobacco Etch, Potato, Pepper Mottle and Pepper Yellow Mosaic Virus.

These pepper varieties are perfectly adapted for open field production and we suggest trellising for this form of production.

Fruit is early-maturing – approximately 65 days after transplant on the Autry – offering high % first-pick from concentrated fruit sets and on-going high growth potential over a long growing season.

The Momentum comes into production about 2 weeks later than Autry and like Autry has the ability to produce quality fruit over a long season.

The team at McDonalds Seeds highly recommend these 2 pepper varieties for farmers looking to supply multiple markets with high quality fruit.

Contact us for more information and to discuss growing suggestions tailored to your preferences.

Optima – Tala Valley​

The Optima F1 Hybrid is an excellent cabbage for KwaZulu-Natal farmers looking for great size, exceptional heat tolerance, and resistance to black rot. Offering superior resilience and yield potential, it is a natural choice for warm-weather farming conditions.

For KwaZulu-Natal farmers looking for a hardy, large cabbage variety well-suited to conditions in the province, the team at McDonalds Seeds recommends the Optima F1 Hybrid. Offering excellent yield potential, disease resistance, and sturdiness especially in warm weather conditions, this fresh market cabbage is a great choice for farmers.

Planted and tested at our research farm in Tala Valley, the Optima Cabbage has proven itself to be an outstanding summer variety – one recommended for warm areas and those prone to black rot. The big frame offers superior resilience across a range of conditions. It protects the heads against sunburn and wind damage and mature heads stand up well to the effects of frost and cool weather.

Off the back of our test harvest, Optima has proven itself to be the leading summer variety of cabbage in KwaZulu-Natal, with resistance to black rot, exceptional heat tolerance, and excellent holdability for a summer cabbage. Offering high yield potential, impressive results were consistently achieved throughout the warm season, with very good uniformity from the high-percentage first cut and spanning the overall harvest.

Transplant to maturity takes approximately 85 to 90 days. This large-headed cabbage is well-covered and its semi-erect growth habit means there is no water accumulation in the bottom of the plant. Early and late sowing in cool areas should be avoided to prevent bolting.

The team at McDonalds Seeds have been immensely impressed by the performance of this variety in local conditions. For those farmers battling with black rot pressures on their cabbage harvests, Optima offers a natural and effective solution. For sowing advice and more information, please contact one of the representatives at McDonalds Seeds for detailed specifications around the Optima cabbage variety.

McDonalds Seeds

McDonalds Seeds has served the farmer for over 112 years since its inception in 1902. We provide top quality tested seed especially suited to local conditions, supported by a dedicated and knowledgeable team offering technical back-up to our agents and customers across South Africa.

Nativa Summer Carrot Field

Nativa Summer Carrot Production Now Possible

Nativa Summer Carrot Field

What has been a limiting factor for carrot production in KwaZulu-Natal in summer has always been high disease pressure.

This is largely due to high humidity and fluctuating temperatures; especially from the months October to February.

Powdery Mildew and Alternaria have a devastating effect on carrot production during these months.

These are also them months where high prices can be reached due to difficult growing conditions , for example low supply = good demand = high prices.

With the intensive trialing over the years by Sakata Seeds and McDonalds Seeds attempted to find a cultivar which could withstand such conditions.

Nativa F1 Hybrid Carrot stood head and shoulders over a number of varieties as well as the standard commercial varieties.

Nativa Hybrid Carrot – Special features:

• Summer to early autumn sowing
• Very early maturing
• Excellent yield potential
• Very uniform roots
• High resistance to nematodes
• Great choice for the pre pack as well as the bulk market.

Be careful however of sowing early and high applications of Nitrogen due to the plant vigour.

The adaptability and performance of Nativa during these difficult months make it now possible to produce carrots in KZN when prices are high.

This is also coupled with a high yield potential – Nativa is a great choice for the pre pack as well as the bulk market.

Contact McDonalds Seeds for more information on this unique variety and sowing guidelines for your area.

Disco LL Tomato – A Great Choice For Every Tomato Farmer


Johan Stronhorst – Sakata Crop Manager – Tomato’s and Peppers and Hercules Maritz – Farm Manager – Hohls Farming Eshowe – in a field of Disco Tomato

Fifteen years ago Mayford released Disco LL F1 Hybrid Determinate Salad Tomato.

Today it is still the reliable and adaptable quality variety; making it a great choice for every tomato farmer.

Disco LL F1 Salad Tomato – Special Features

• Long shelf life tomato with an excellent track record.
• Improved colour and flavour.
• High yield potential with a high percentage of first grade fruit.
• The variety is aimed at the typical pre-pack market but for outdoor production.
• Excellent disease package including bacterial canker.
• Low nitrogen requirement because of vigorous growth habit

For more information and assistance on a fertilizer program to help you get the best out of this fantastic variety – contact McDonald Seeds.