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SteriStall & SteriMat: The perfect team

Gerbrand Haasbroek

Trials conducted on SteriStall and SteriMat


Sun Silicates recently developed an innovative horse bedding system. Lab work showed very promising results. This has now been followed up by extensive trials in real-world conditions.

  • The aim of the trial was to evaluate:
    1. The best application method.
    2. The feasibility of the system.
    3. Benefits of the system.
    The test was conducted over a three-month period on a horse that was stabled for an extended period, recovering from a leg injury.


  • Trial set up:
    A 1 x 25 Kg bag of SteriStall was used to cover the complete stable floor of 12 square meters before installing the SteriMat blocks. A tool was designed and used to lift the individual blocks to ease the removal of the saturated SteriStall. Solid waste was removed daily. The wood chips that were made into a bed area of approximately 30 % of the total was repositioned as required. The saturated areas that are visible between the slats of the SteriMat – was removed and replenished with new dry powder. The quantity of the SteriStall used was recorded. The usage per month of wood chips was also measured. The ammonia smell was continually compared with adjacent stables where the normal wood chip system was being employed. The quantity and prevalence of flies were also monitored but not measured.


  • Results: SteriStall has an ability to absorb approximately 150 % of its own mass in liquid. Therefore, the usage should be directly proportional to the urination in the stable. Average consumption over a 6 weeks period was 5 liters of product per day, that equates to approximately 7,5 liters of urine per day. This correlates very well with a typical daily urine quantity for a fully-grown horse of 10 liters per day. The consumption of the chips per month reduced by approximately 75% as the horse was urinating less on the chips and more on the open SteriMat /SteriSltall area.


  • Additional benefits:
    1. Less impact on the horse due to the soft rubber with a shore hardness of 50 to 65. The horse recovered faster from its leg injury that anticipated.
    2. The hooves of the horse showed no thrush or bacterial growth.
    3. A total lack of ammonia smells was evident, as the conversion from the urine to ammonia was prevented.
    4. A significant reduction in the presence of flies was evident.


  • Cost calculations:
    The cost was calculated as follows:


1. Traditional system +/– R 1800/month

2. SteriStall/SteriMat system

a. Chips R 600/month
b. Steristall @ R 5/liter and 5 liters per day R 750/month
c. Total variable cost R1350/month
3. Capital expenditure
a. The cost will be dependent on the size of the stable. In this instance, the stable was 12 square meters and the cost of the installed system was R 7500.
b. With a saving of approximately R450/month, the payback for the system should be 16 months. This is based on the cost of the bedding and does not include the health benefits as described above.


  • Conclusions and recommendations:
    The SteriStall and SteriMat system makes economic sense and has many benefits to the health of the horses. Although SteriStall may be used with the normal wood chip system to dry out the floors of the stable, it is believed that combining it with the SteriMat will be the most appropriate solution. It is recommended for high-performance animals where the additional capital investment will be offset not only by the reduced bedding costs but also should manifest in a better performing and healthier horse.

SteriStall a unique new product for the farming and equine industry.

Gerbrand Haasbroek

Sun Silicates is proud to announce the release of its latest product offering SteriStall a unique new product for the farming and equine industry.

Steristall is a natural mineral blend designed to absorb urine in horse bedding, reducing the presence of unhealthy ammonia and protecting against disease-carrying insects. Used in the bedding of stable floors, SteriStall is a non-toxic, non-caustic and highly absorbent.

The importance of perlite and its size distribution in growing media

Gerbrand Haasbroek


Understanding the purpose that each growing medium serves is the first step to selecting a unique blend for your needs.

Air, water and nutrients are the three basic requirements of plants and finding a balance between these three will ensure you promote strong root growth and healthy plants.

Photosynthesis is another key process in plant growth, however the reactions and interactions taking place below the surface of the growing medium is often neglected. The roots and microorganisms within a growing medium absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. As the carbon dioxide fills the growing medium, it must be replaced by oxygen so that the roots are protected from carbon dioxide poisoning and can partake in root respiration.

Oxygen traverses into a growing medium through the process of diffusion. The oxygen moves from an area of high concentration, which in this case would be the environment, to an area of low oxygen concentration. Many growing mediums become waterlogged during irrigation which either entraps the carbon dioxide within the medium or the water surrounds the entire root system thereby suppressing the presence of oxygen available to the roots.

The importance of providing water to a plant is affected by the water supplied and the water drained.  Finding and maintaining a balance between these two factors will be key to creating the most favourable environment for your plants. The ability to hold water in your medium is largely dependent on the material type and the particle size distribution of your medium.


Bark, Peat and Coir are the most common growing media as they are able to retain high levels of water. Bark mediums can have up to 40 % pore space which absorbs and stores water whilst coir has a fine pore structure which is ideal for high water holding capacity. Peat and peat mosses are comprised of partially decomposed plants which are able to retain their cellular structure which ensures a high water-holding capacity.

The ability of a medium to hold water stems from the pore size. A smaller pore, known as a micropore, has the ability to store water due to capillary forces which in this case are stronger than the gravitational pull on the water.  The presence of these micropores and their quantity influences the measure of the water holding capacity of a growing medium. In addition to micropores, the formation of macropores within a growing medium is equally important.

Macropores provide pathways for oxygen to move through the medium to aerate the root system and to improve drainage.  The majority of growing medium blends containing bark, peat and/or coir have high water holding capacities, however drainage and structure within the medium may become problematic over time which will adversely impact the plant’s root system.

Good structure in a growing medium requires a balance between macro and micropores to provide required levels of aeration whilst, at the same time, maintaining an acceptable water holding capacity. As growing media age, the macropores tend to collapse as the organic materials decompose and the structure of the media shift.  The air-filled porosity will decrease as there are fewer pathways for diffusion and the water holding capacity will increase as the drainage of the medium is clogged.


Perlite is ideal in growing media blends as it provides a larger particle size and a structure that doesn’t decompose over time. Horticultural grade perlite is inert, contains a porous structure and is typically sized between 1-3 mm. Blending perlite with other growing media can significantly increase the air-filled porosity, whilst still maintaining the water-holding capacity.

The perlite particles are not uniform in shape and therefore “break” the uniformity of the material.  These “breaks” allow for the formation of macropores which create the channels in a blend. The particle size of perlite is of utmost importance as a larger particle size creates the macropores however a particle finer than 1 mm can contribute to clogging the medium which is counterproductive in this instance.

As an inert material, perlite will not degrade over time in a growing medium. The effect of compaction due to irrigation is also greatly reduced because the perlite structure is porous and therefore has the ability to absorb and release excess water without altering the shape or size of the particle.  Perlite has the ability to transform the behaviour of a growing media blend and provide the most suitable environment for both healthy root and plant growth.




Considerations when choosing an optimal growing media

Gerbrand Haasbroek

Choosing the optimal growing media requires special consideration, because it is much more than just an anchor for the plant: it can be crucial to the successful growth of the plant.

Dozens of different ingredients are used in varying combinations to create homemade or commercial growing media blends. By understanding the functions of growing media, you can take advantage of the unique characteristics of each media allowing you to tailor a blend which will provide the ideal growing conditions for your specific needs.


Physical Support
The growing medium must be porous yet provide physical support. Young plants are fragile and must remain upright so that they can photosynthesize and grow.

Plant roots need a steady supply of oxygen to convert the photosynthate from the leaves into energy so that the roots can grow and take up water and mineral nutrients. The by-product of this respiration is carbon dioxide that must be dispersed into the atmosphere to prevent the build-up of toxic concentrations within the root zone. This gas exchange occurs in the large pores (macropores) or air spaces in the growing medium.
Plants use a tremendous amount of water for growth and development, and this water supply must be provided by the growing medium. Growing media are formulated so that they can hold water in the small pores (micropores) between their particles. Many growing mediums contain a high percentage of organic matter such as peat moss and compost because these materials have internal spaces that can hold water like a sponge. Therefore, growing media must have adequate porosity to absorb and store the large amounts of water needed by the growing plant.
Supply of Mineral Nutrients
Most of the essential mineral nutrients that plants need for rapid growth must be obtained through the roots from the growing medium. Most mineral nutrients are electrically charged ions. Positively charged ions (cations) include ammonium (NH4+), potassium (K+), calcium (Ca2+), and magnesium (Mg2+). These cations are attracted to negatively charged sites on growing medium particles up to the point when the roots extract the cations. The capacity of a growing medium to adsorb these cations is referred to as cation exchange capacity (CEC). Different media components vary considerably in their CEC, but peat moss, vermiculite, and compost have a high CEC value, which explains their popularity in growing media. A growing media which can readily exchange cations to the plants roots allows the greatest opportunity for nutrient absorption.

Seedlings sprouting (Pixabay)


Chemical properties:


The pH of growing medium is a measure of its relative acidity or alkalinity. pH values range from 0 to 14; those below 7 are acidic and those above 7 are alkaline. Most native plants tend to grow best at pH levels between 5.5 and 6.2, although some species are tolerant of higher or lower pH levels. The main effect of pH on plant growth is its control on nutrient availability. The availability of micronutrients, such as iron, is even more affected by pH. Iron chlorosis, caused by high pH, is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies of nursery stock. Exceptionally high or low pH levels also affect the abundance of pathogens and beneficial microorganisms.

Photo showing Fe deficiency in a plant (pH = 7.3) (Lindi Grobler)


Photo showing Mn toxicity in a plant (pH = 4.6) (Lindi Grobler)

How do I increase the pH?

Addition of a liming material will raise the pH of your medium. This will however entail a number of additional controls such as quantity of addition, timing of application, grade of liming agent and the frequency of dosing. To find the optimum some time and research will be required on the specific blend and whether the mix is a potting blend or in soil.

How do I reduce the pH?

Acidifying growing media is often considered as a complex process as the additives and dosing is of extreme importance. Generally, to reduce the pH, sulphur is dosed. Due to availability and cost iron (ferrous) sulphate, phosphoric acid solution may also be used. The toxic side effects must be taken into consideration prior to dosing and the acidification of soils is only recommended when there is a low percentage of lime present due to the economic implications.

The pH affects the nutrient solubility and availability. A low pH causes micro nutrient toxicity, and a high pH causes nutrient deficiency.

Electrical Conductivity (EC)

EC is the measure of total dissolved salts in a solution, this influences a plant’s ability to absorb water. In horticultural applications, monitoring salinity helps manage the effects of soluble salts on plant growth. EC is a meaningful indicator of water quality, soil salinity and fertilizer concentration.

Photo showing the importance of electrical conductivity (EC) in plants (Lindi Grobler)

Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC)

CEC refers to the ability of a growing medium to hold positively charged ions. Because most growing media are inherently infertile, CEC is a very important consideration. In the growing medium, plant roots exchange excess charged ions for charged nutrient ions, and then these nutrients are transported to the foliage, where they are used for growth and development. Because the CEC of a growing medium reflects its nutrient storage capacity, it provides an indication of how often fertilization will be required.



Nitrogen is such a vital nutrient because it is a major component of chlorophyll, the compound through which plants use sunlight energy to produce sugars from water and carbon dioxide (i.e., photosynthesis). It is also a major component of amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins

Without proteins, plants wither and die. Some proteins act as structural units in plant cells while others act as enzymes which are essential in many biochemical reactions on which life is based. Nitrogen is a component of energy-transfer compounds, such as ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP allows cells to conserve and use the energy released in metabolism. Finally, nitrogen is a significant component of nucleic acids such as DNA, the genetic material that allows cells (and eventually whole plants) to grow and reproduce. Without nitrogen, there would be no life as we know it.


Magnesium is an essential plant nutrient that has a wide range of key roles in many plant functions. One of magnesium’s well-known roles is in the photosynthesis process, as it is a building block of Chlorophyll, which makes leaves appear green


Potassium is an essential plant nutrient and is required in large amounts for proper growth and reproduction of plants. Potassium is considered second only to nitrogen, when it comes to nutrients required by plants, and is commonly considered as the “quality nutrient.”

It affects the plant shape, size, colour, taste and other measurements attributed to healthy produce.

Plants absorb potassium in its ionic form, K+.

Potassium has many different roles in plants:

  • In Photosynthesis, potassium regulates the opening and closing of stomata, and therefore regulates CO2
  • Potassium triggers activation of enzymes and is essential for production of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP is an important energy source for many chemical processes taking place in during plant growth and respiration.
  • Potassium plays a major role in the regulation of water in plants (osmo-regulation). Both uptake of water through plant roots and its loss through the stomata are affected by potassium.
  • Protein and starch synthesis in plants require potassium as well. Potassium is essential at almost every step of the protein synthesis. In starch synthesis, the enzyme responsible for the process is activated by potassium.

Potassium deficiency might cause abnormalities in plants, usually the symptoms are growth related.

Cholrosis – scorching of plant leaves, with yellowing of the margins of the leaf. This is one of the first symptoms of Potassium deficiency. Symptoms appear on middle and lower leaves.

Slow or Stunted growth – as potassium is an important growth catalyst in plants, potassium deficient plants will have slower or stunted growth.

Poor resistance to temperature changes and to drought – Poor potassium uptake will result in less water circulation in the plant. This will make the plant more susceptible to drought and temperature changes.

Defoliation – left unattended, potassium deficiency in plants results in plants losing their leaves sooner than they should. This process might become even faster if the plant is exposed to drought or high temperatures. Leaves turn yellow, then brown and eventually fall off one by one.

Other symptoms of Potassium deficiency:

  • Poor resistance to pests
  • Weak and unhealthy roots
  • Uneven ripening of fruits


Manganese is one of nine essential nutrients that plants require for growth. Many processes are dependent on this nutrient, including chloroplast formation, photosynthesis, nitrogen metabolism and synthesis of some enzymes. The role of manganese in plants is extremely crucial. Deficiency, which is common in soils that have neutral to high pH or a substantial deal of organic matter, can have a significant effect on the health and growth of plants.
Physical Properties

Medium texture & structure

The texture of growing media can either be defined as “fine” or “coarse”, and this is determined by the particle size distribution of the growing medium. When one is familiar with the texture of the growing media, it allows speculation as to other properties of the growing media, for example, fine growing media has a difficult water infiltration rate, and is easily waterlogged, where a course growing media has rapid infiltration, rapid drainage and a lowered water holding capacity.)

The structure of the media is determined by the particle size distribution, which is the percentage fine or course particles in a growing media.

Aeration of medium

The air-filled porosity of the media is the sizes of the pores in the media or “openness” of the media. The smaller pores filled with water and the larges pores are filled by air. The water that can be found in the largest of the smallest pores is available to the plant, and the water found in the tiniest pores are unavailable to the plant.

The proportion of air to readily available water is equal to the proportion of pores of different sizes. The larger pores the growing media has, the more air it holds. Many small pores are equivalent to a high ability to hold water.

Air filled porosity should increase as the height of a container increases, the air porosity will also determine the irrigation frequency and quantity. The importance of air filled porosity correlates to the respiration process which occurs at the root structure of the plant as well as the incidence of waterlogging. Providing sufficient aeration and reducing the likelihood of waterlogging encourages healthy root and stem growth avoiding root rot and stunted plant growth.

Water holding capacity

The air-filled porosity determines the infiltration rate. One must have a balance between air filled porosity and available water, and the readily available water should be as high as possible without significantly impacting the supply of air to the root system.

Each medium release water according to the suction supplied by the roots of the plants. Therefore, a growing medium blend must accommodate the amount of water required by the plant as well as the frequency of irrigation. Selection of a suitable growing medium may reduce the frequency of irrigation required due to the mediums ability to store and supply water which may have been otherwise lost to evaporation and drainage.


Peat moss

Peat moss is a partly decomposed material containing remains of plants growing in swampy areas and is usually very acidic.

Sphagnum peat moss is currently the most common organic component of growing media. Although types of peat moss may appear similar, they can have very different physical and chemical properties.

Saw dust / saw shavings

Raw sawdust, with its high C:N, can negatively affect nutrient availability, especially nitrogen but its properties can be improved with composting. Additionally, because of the inherent differences in chemical properties between different woods, the suitability of sawdust as an organic growing media component is extremely variable. Some species produce sawdust with phytotoxic effects. Only consider using sawdust from sawmills because other wood residues, such as those from treated boards, may contain preservatives or harmful chemicals. Sawdust from coastal sawmills can contain high levels of salts, so all potential sources need to be tested before general use in the nursery.

Coir/Coir fibre/Coco peat

A by-product of processing coconut husks is known as coir dust, coco peat, or simply coir. This material has proven to be an excellent organic component for container growing media and is readily available in some tropical locales. Coconut coir has many desirable qualities: high water-holding capacity; excellent drainage; absence of weeds and pathogens; physical resiliency (withstands compression of baling better than Sphagnum peat); slow decomposition; easy wettability; and acceptable levels of pH, cation exchange capacity, and electrical conductivity. Coir is very similar to peat in appearance and structure, and, like peat, physical and chemical properties of coir can vary widely from source to source. Coir is low in nitrogen, calcium, and magnesium but can be relatively high in phosphorus and potassium. Excess salinity and phenolic compounds in coir can be a problem in areas with inadequate quality control. In addition, some coir sources have reportedly contained chlorides at levels toxic to many plants. Thus, it is very important that salts and other compounds are thoroughly leached with fresh water before use.

Plants growing in coir (Lindi Grobler)


Perlite is a siliceous material of volcanic origin, and supplies no nutrition to plants. Perlite particles have a unique closed-cell structure so that water adheres only to their surface; they do not absorb water as peat moss or vermiculite do. Therefore, growing media containing perlite are well drained and lightweight. Perlite is also rigid and does not compress easily, which promotes good porosity. Because of the high temperatures at which it is processed, perlite is completely sterile. It is essentially infertile, has a minimal CEC, and has a neutral pH. Perlite is typically included to increase aeration, and commercial mixes contain no more than 10 to 30 percent perlite.

Perlite used as a growing media


Vermiculite is a common component and is a hydrated aluminium-iron-magnesium silicate material that has an accordion-like structure. Vermiculite has a very low bulk density and an extremely high water-holding capacity, approximately five times its weight. This material also has a neutral pH, a high CEC, and contains small amounts of potassium and magnesium. Vermiculite deteriorates when wet as the particles collapses and this should be accounted for when selecting growing media blends.

Potatoes growing in SunPerl Vermiculite (Sun Silicates)


Pumice is a type of volcanic rock consisting of mostly silicon dioxide and aluminium oxide with small amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, and sodium. The porous nature of pumice particles improves aeration porosity but also retains water within the pores. Pumice is the most durable of the inorganic ingredients and so resists compaction. Pumice has a neutral pH without CEC and therefore does not interfere with the availability of nutrients.

One could either use these media on their own or combine the media to create a mix.


The 2 most important factors when choosing a growing media are

The pH

When managing the pH, it is important to know the media pH one started with. Also, the changes in the pH must be monitored as the plants develop (the pH provides an indication on the availability of nutrients).

The container used to plant in

When managing the containers, one must choose containers according to the environment, water quality and the growing media that will be used. Factors that must be considered is the depth of the container, volume of the container, shape of the container, width of the container and the draining hole.

Using containers that are too small

Soil serves as the main source of nutrients for any plant. With less soil in a smaller container, there are fewer nutrients available for the plant’s root system. A container that is too small can constrict the plant’s roots, especially plants with big roots. The roots can get packed in without having enough room to spread out. If this happens, the plant’s growth may slow down. Plants may also be tipping over because of the extra weight in comparison to the container.

One way to know if your plant needs a bigger container is to look for roots poking out of the drainage holes in the bottom. A container that is too small also won’t hold enough water to support the plant. And the soil dries out quickly. You might notice that the plant shows signs of drought sooner if the container is too small.

Using containers that are too large

It may seem like going with an over sized container is better so you can avoid the crowded root situation. But a container that’s too big for your plant can also have negative effects on its growth. A container that is too large for a plant can hold too much water in the soil or take too long to dry out, which can lead to mold growth, rot and root diseases. Too large of a container can also make it difficult to keep the soil firmly packed around the plant’s roots.

How to choose a proper size container

The best container for each plant depends on the size of the plant and its needs. A container should allow the plant’s root system to spread out somewhat and drain well. This means that the container should not be soaked after it is watered because the water should drain out the bottom. If your plant is currently in a container that’s too small, move it to a container that’s about 5 cm to 10 cm larger in diameter.

Choosing the right size container is crucial when planting as it leads to the successful growth of the plant


For more information regarding growing media, please visit, of contact us at 011 824 4600 with any questions or queries.

How Your Pot Plants Benefit from Perlite

Gerbrand Haasbroek

How Your Pot Plants Benefit from Perlite

Not everyone might be a farmer, or an avid gardener, some might just enjoy a few potted plants in and around their homes, gardens and offices. The love for having a small amount of plants or a small scale plant is perfectly acceptable, and they add a fresh and needed feeling to many environments. This does not mean that these plants cannot benefit from having a little something to allow them to thrive and grow into something healthy and beautiful. No matter how big the plants will grow, they will always appreciate a little perlite.

How Perlite Benefits Plants

There are various different types and grades of perlite. The type that you would use for your plants would depend on the plant’s needs, the soil and the growing environment. This is because of the different growing requirements and the different nutritional needs that each plant needs. But perlite, is there to help enrich the soil and the plants, and allowing them to have a more comfortable growth. This is because the perlite allows for the plant to experience better aeration. It also has water absorption properties that allows for a more consistency in hydration.

Pot Plant Usage

Of course you cannot sprinkle the perlite all over the plant like salt on food. It will have to be carefully measured our and mixed into the soil then the plant or seeds my be placed. The amount that you would be putting in depends on the size and depth of the pot and the amount of soil that will be placed into it. It is absolutely worth it to invest a little bit of time to find the perfect fit for your plants so that they may brighten up the immediate surroundings and promote a healthier environment.

Sun Silicates

Even if you are not into small scale growing, most plants and their soil can benefit from some perlite, or even vermiculite. If you would like to know more about perlite, or get your hands on some, be sure to visit Sun Silicates!


Gerbrand Haasbroek

CemteQ, sister company to Sun Silicates, has launched the first in its range of perlite and cement composite products. These composites use perlite as an aggregate replacement, together with cement and special admixtures for bespoke plaster, screed and concrete applications.

Due to the unique nature of perlite, these composite products offer significant insulation, fire-resistance, lightweight and acoustic properties.


The first products in the CemteQ range include PlasterLite which is a super-smooth, easy-to-apply composite material for trowel-on plaster and low-velocity pumped plaster applications. It combines a carefully developed combination of exfoliated perlite with quality cement, admixtures and micro fibres in a bag to offer a unique one-coat plaster solution without the requirement for a skim plaster. PlasterLite is available in white and grey and offers approximately six to eight times the insulation properties of ordinary plaster, saving significantly on heating and cooling costs. The R-value for 15mm ordinary plaster is approximately 0.019 m2.K/W, whereas the R-value for PlasterLite White is 0.128 m2.K/W and PlasterLite Grey is 0.156 m2.K/W. PlasterLite also weighs between 25-30% of traditional plaster, reducing the weight by ton per 50-60m2 of plaster at 15mm thick.


Newly introduced is also CemteQ’s ScreedPerl insulating, lightweight screed material. This is designed to prevent downward heat loss in floors, saving significantly on heating costs. It also provides a lightweight, insulating solution for roofs and can be easily sloped towards drainage points or to the roof edge providing suitable water run-off and preventing damage. The R-value for a 30mm floor screed using traditional materials would be 0.042 m2.K/W compared to ScreedPerl with an R-value of 0.316 m2.K/W, providing approximately 7.5 times the insulation of ordinary plaster.

The installed weight of ScreedPerl is between 460-470 kg/m3 which equates to roughly 20% of traditional screed material. This offers distinct structural design benefits and makes it easier to work with and transport. The product is not suitable for high wear areas and must be covered with a floor covering such as carpets, wood or tiles. ScreedPerl can be applied to various uneven or curved surfaces with a suitable bonding agent. It is not waterproof and must be covered with a suitable waterproofing system when used on roof decks.


CemteQ PlasterLite and ScreedPerl


CemteQ’s Perlite-based products also offer excellent fire protection for up to 4 hours. They have low linear expansion characteristics which greatly reduce the development of cracks, ensuring that the temperature of the structure and load-bearing members is maintained below the critical point at which weakening or failure is likely to occur. They do not release smoke or toxic gas and do not disintegrate or spall when cooled suddenly with a firehose.

The products provide efficient sound dampening, particularly for pulsed sounds, are inorganic and do not rot or decay over time.

For more information, please contact us on, or give us a call on (+27-11) 824-4600


Gerbrand Haasbroek

This has been very successful and over the years many research projects have been tackled by university students. The association continues to go from strength to strength and serves the majority of the industry


On the 6th and 7th of June 2018, SGASA will be holding their annual symposium at Hudsons on Vredenheim wine estate. The symposium will cover interesting topics ( that you would not want to miss!




We at Sun Silicates play a crucial part in the horticultural industry.

Sun Silicates is the only company in South Africa that manufacture both Sunperl horticultural perlite and Culite-V (horticultural vermiculite), which are the two most important sub-starters in a growing medium.

Both are light, inert, non-organic substances that are good for maintaining aeration in the soil by maintaining space between the soil particles. However, they function differently in terms of their effect on water retention.

What is perlite

Perlite is the snowy white granular particles that look like small pieces of styrofoam you will see in some potting mediums.

Perlite is formed when volcanic mineral rock is heated quickly causing it to exfoliate/expand. The result is a very lightweight, porous material that is hard and does not break apart easily. It is inorganic and sterile, has a neutral pH and can hold 3-4 times its weight in water yet will not rot or become soggy.

  • Perlite absorbs considerable water into the tiny bubble holes. However, this water is not retained very well. It tends to drain out quite quickly.
  • Perlite should be incorporated into the seed sowing compost
  • Perlite is best for plants that need well drained soil as because of its irregular surface shape it does help aerate the soil.
  • Results for seed production using perlite are mixed, since the perlite does not absorb moisture.
  • Perlite is available in various size grades.
  • Perlite ideally works for starting salad greens and other fast growing seeds.

Seedlings growing in perlite

What is vermiculite

Vermiculite is a hydrated magnesium aluminium silicate mineral and can be found in various countries across the world. The vermiculite mineral is non-carcinogenic and 100% safe to use.

horticultural grade exfoliated vermiculite is the best choice for seed production. When added to soil, it holds moisture and reduces the need for watering.

  • Vermiculite acts like a sponge, holding moisture close to the roots of the plants.
  • The horticultural exfoliated vermiculite is also able to absorb excess water away from plants, this can help prevent mildew.
  • When soil is sandy, mixing horticultural vermiculite into the soil will help maintain moisture and also help air circulate.
  • Horticultural vermiculite is available in various grading sizes (four). From very fine to course.
  • Vermiculite can be incorporated into the seed sowing compost, in addition it can be used for seed covering and some have used it solely as a seed growing medium


Vermiculite can also be used as a seed covering material. Instead of using sieved compost to cover the seeds use a light covering of the horticultural vermiculite (fine grade). Excellent seed germination results have been achieved using this method for covering seeds.

To make a soil-free growing medium for seeds, combine vermiculite with peat (or alternative) or composted pine bark. This mixture retains air, nutrients and moisture. Very little watering is required.

Some have even used vermiculite alone, if this is your chosen method then you should feed the seedling with diluted fertilizer when the first true leaves begin to appear.

Seedlings growing in vermiculite


Come and visit the Sun Silicates team at their stand at the SGASA symposium for all your growing needs, troubleshooting and information. See you there!


For more information regarding the products that sun silicates have to offer, give us a call on 011 824 4600, or email us on

Building with CemteQ

Gerbrand Haasbroek

It takes one innovative idea to change the world, and that is exactly what has happened with Sun Silicates and their sister company CemteQ have done. Sun Silicates produces perlite which is often used in agriculture and gardening as it provides great assistance to the soil by keeping it perfectly moist and assists in draining the water from plants to avoid drowning and surplus moisture. However, it has been established that it has other practical uses in building and construction.


Perlite is a natural element that is created from rapid cooling of volcanic lava which traps crystalline water. This is element is processed by exfoliation, and during this process the perlite takes on a white form while it creates tiny bubbles in the glassy material. This allows the perlite to hold a new look as well as new properties. One of these properties includes insulation. This extends to thermal and acoustic insulation, which is perfect of creating a more environmentally and neighbour friendly building. This also allows it a great bit of flexibility when it comes to its installation as it could be used in a variety of forms.

Perlite in Construction

Perlite in construction is amazing as it has a few benefits to it that makes it appealing to those who will be creating those infrastructures as well as those who are going to be occupying those structures in person. The perlite is a great because you can mix it in with paster or place it in the empty space as a loose element. It has a very low carbon footprint, which makes it easier on the environment, and it is a light weight material. And once all has been done it offers a smooth finish which allows the perfect paint finish.


Even though the conventional uses for perlite are wonderful, its application in construction is revolutionary. Its applications are powerful that will allow for cheaper building projects, with a large increase in value which will be helping all the users in the future, as they will spend less on heating and air cons throughout the seasons, it will help maintain privacy, while protecting the environment. CemteQ is a great innovation that is here to stay, and bring more positive changes. Visit their website for more information.

How to Use Vermiculite in a Container Garden

Gerbrand Haasbroek

How to Use Vermiculite in a Container Garden

There is no garden that is too small to benefit from Vermiculite. It has benefits for crops, as well as personal gardens to a container gardens. There is no need to think that your plants do not deserve the nutrients for Vermiculite. Vermiculite is a safe material, that does not pose harm to the plants, nor does it harm people or animals. It is carcinogen free, which confirms its safety. When it comes to a container garden, it has the potential to bloom and bring life to your home, no matter where it is placed.

The Benefit of Vermiculite

It is no secret to many people that vermiculite does amazing things for plants and soil, which is why so many people use it. The reason vermiculite is so great with plants is because it offers them nutrients such as ammonium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Certain mixtures help retain air, moisture and plant food, releasing them to the plant as required. If the soil that the plants are growing in is nutrient rich, they are able to grow rich and luscious plants.

Container Gardens

Naturally, a container garden would need more attention than a garden outside because it does not have exposure to the natural elements, and the natural ecosystems that are in place. However, when the right steps are done for the garden, the results are very rewarding. When you set up your container garden you should:

  • Mix the vermiculite with the soil. It should be 20% to 25% vermiculite to the soil.
  • Spread the vermiculite evenly throughout the container.
  • Place the plants or seeds in the container.
  • Water the plants or seeds once they have been carefully placed.
  • Do not over water it because the vermiculite retains water well.
  • Enjoy your garden!

Sun Silicates

Sun Silicates is the best supplier of vermiculite and perlite, in a variety of quantities, as well as a variety of blends, depending on your needs and wants from your garden. No matter what you plan on gardening, and no matter the size of the garden. Visit their website to find more information as well as view their other products.

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Sun Silicates (Pty) Ltd focuses on supplying high-tech consumable products to the chemical, metallurgical and agricultural industries. The company is customer and performance focused and we ensure our customers of quality products at competitive pricing.

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