Home    Buy Seed    Live Seed Advantage    American Grown    Grow Niger    Niger Pictures    Testimonials    Contact Us  

EarlyBird 50 Niger™ is a 50 day crop!!!

Vegetable Growers: Grow niger as a second crop, after bee pollinated crops, such as curcubits. Niger is a high value crop, is very attractive to honeybees and possibly increases yields on following crops.

Varieties from India and Ethiopia can require up to 150 days. Since niger yields are low, it cannot compete with wheat, corn or other crops as the primary crop. However, it may make a very good second crop, especially if there is also a need for bee pasture. In India and Ethiopia it is also used as a green manure crop and corn has shown higher yields following niger.

Information on this crop with websites are shown below. If you scroll down to Grow EarlyBird 50 Niger™ you can find information on EarlyBird 50 Niger™ production in the U.S. and Canada.

We also have a later maturing variety that may be better for green manure and bee pasture. EarlyBird Niger™, if planted in warm soils, will flower in as few as 30 to 35 days and will flower for up to 3 weeks with another 3 weeks to mature.

Although this crop has few diseases; Sclerotina or white mold has been a problem in the north under cool, wet conditions. You may need to control leafhoppers. Finches and doves love the seed in the field and may be a problem, especially on small acreages. As the following is quite lengthy, we have highlighted some of the more interesting lines.

Year: 2005 Volume: 8 - Issue: 12 Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences
Influence of Precursor Crops on Inorganic and Organic Fertilizers Response of Maize at Bako, Western Oromiya, Ethiopia Tolera Abera ; Daba Feyissa ; Hasan Yusuf ; Tesfaye G. Georgis

The present research was conducted with the objective to determine the right precursor crop with integrated nutrient management is an approach to soil fertility management and play a significant influence on sustainable production of maize (Zea mays). Precursor crops showed significant effect on yield and yield components of maize. Higher grain yield of maize was observed from Niger seed precursor crop. All inorganic and organic nutrients gave better yield of maize on Niger seed precursor crop compared to Mucuna pruriens green manured fields. Maize following Niger seed gave grain yield advantage of 20.19% compared to maize following Mucuna pruriens (velvetleaf). The use of Niger seed as precursor crop with 23-46 kg N-P ha-1 and 8 t FYM ha-1 produced better grain yield of maize. Higher grain yield with integrated nutrient management were realized from Niger seed precursor crop. Niger seed precursor crop with integrated nutrients application is the most successful management option for sustainable production of maize. Use of precursor crop and fertilizer enabled maize yield to be maintained at a fairly high level compared to continuous cropping. Thus, it is recommended that Niger seed precursor crop with integrated nutrients are agronomically profitable for sustainable maize production in Alfisols of Bak.

On Sep 7, 2006, Magpye from NW Qtr, AR (Zone 6a) wrote: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/139810/

The Niger plant and Niger-seed .. is NOT in any way associated to the 'thistle' plant or seed!

Niger is indigenous to Ethiopia where it is grown in rotation to cereals and pulses. It is a seed crop cultivated in Ethiopia, India, Myanmar, and Nepal, and is imported into the USA primarily as bird seed.

The imported seed to the USA .. is heat-treated to 'devitalize' any weed-seeds that may be present - to prevent them from germinating. Niger-seed is the only major wild bird feed ingredient imported from overseas. In 1985, the US Department of Agriculture ruled heat treatment as a condition of entry. It has been marketed as bird seed for about 40 years.

Niger is an annual dicotyledonous herb. It is traditionally harvested while the buds are still yellow, then stacked to dry. The seeds, loosely held in the flower head, are black, club-shaped and narrowly long.

In general, Niger is a crop of the cooler parts of the tropics. The major niger-producing areas in Ethiopia are characterized by a moderate temperature ranging between 15 - 23 degrees centigrade during the growing season.

In Ethiopia, it is cultivated on water-logged soils where most crops and all other oil-seeds fail to grow .. and contributes a great deal to soil conservation and land rehabilitation.

Niger is cultivated primarily for valuable oil which is used in foods, paints, soaps, and as a illuminant

The seeds can be used for human consumption .. fried, or as a condiment.

It constitutes about 50% of Ethiopian and 3% Indian oilseed production.

The Niger plant is consumed by sheep, but not by cattle .. to which only Niger silage can be fed.

Niger is also used as a green manure for increasing soil organic matter.

The parasitic weed species, known as Dodder (Cuscuta campestris) and (Cuscuta chinensis) .. have become a serious threat to Niger production throughout Ethiopia and India.

To find this info Google "2357 and 1347" niger.

The highest niger yields (2357 and 1347 kg/ha) were obtained with Cuscuta free treatment.  Note kg/ha ia approximately equal to pounds/acre.

The following is from Dave's Garden 

It is hardy to zone 0. It is in leaf from May to October, in flower from August to September, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects. The plant is not self-fertile. The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils.

The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil. Habitats
Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Seed.
Edible Uses: Condiment; Oil.

The seed is eaten fried, used as a condiment or dried then ground into a powder and mixed with flour etc to make sweet cakes[22, 46, 177, 183]. Average seed yields in India range from 100 - 200 kg/ha when grown with ragi, and 300 - 400 kg/ha when grown in pure stands[269]. In Kenya, monocultural yields average 600 kg/ha[269]. Seed yields of 1,000 to 1,200 kg/ha have been obtained on fertile Himalayan soils[269]. Oil yields range about 235 kg/ha[269]. The seeds yield about 30% of a clear, excellent, slow-drying edible oil[269]. It is used as a substitute for olive oil, can be mixed with linseed oil, and is used as an adulterant for rape oil, sesame oil etc[269]. The oil is used in cooking as a ghee substitute and can be used in salad dressings etc[183, 269]. A pleasant nutty taste[142].

Medicinal Uses
Antirheumatic; Parasiticide; Poultice.

The oil from the seeds is used in the treatment of rheumatism[240, 243, 269]. It is also applied to treat burns[272]. A paste of the seeds is applied as a poultice in the treatment of scabies[272].
Other Uses
Green manure; Oil.

A drying oil is obtained from the seed[1, 2, 17, 46, 171]. It is used for burning, in making soap, paints etc[57, 132, 269]. The plant can be used as a green manure[61]. It is usually dug in when the plants are about to come into flower[269].

Cultivation details
An easily grown plant, it succeeds in any rich soil[1]. The plant is adapted to a wide range of soils, from sandy to heavy, growth being poor on light sandy or gravelly soils[269]. Niger is often cultivated on very poor acid soils, on hilly slopes, where fertility is low due to leaching and washing away of the plant nutrients by erosion[269]. Niger seed is reported to tolerate an annual precipitation of 66 to 179cm, an annual temperature range of 13.6 to 27.5°C and a pH in the range of 5.5 to 7.5[269]. Niger is often cultivated, especially in Africa, as an oil seed crop[2, 46, 51, 269], it has also been cultivated in Germany[61]. The flowers are very attractive to bees[269]. Several factors lend credence to fears that niger might become a pest if introduced into warm temperate areas - grazing animals do not relish it, the plant tolerates poor soil and drought, it has few serious pests or diseases especially outside its native range, the seeds store for a year or more without deterioration, and the seeds mature 3 - 4.5 months after planting[269]. Arguing against its weed potential are the facts that it is a short day plant and therefore does not flower or set seed until daylight hours average 13 hours or less, it is self-sterile, and requires bees for pollination[269].


Seed - sow spring in situ and only just cover the seed. Make sure the soil does not dry out because this would delay germination. In warm weather, germination should take place within 3 - 4 days of sowing the seed. When sowing larger areas, the seed may be broadcast at rate of 10 kg/ha or sown in rows 40 to 50 cm apart at rate of 5 kg/ha[269].

Comment to last page
Guizotia abyssinica
Tony Winch, Hereford, UK Thu Dec 8 2005

Niger Seed Guizotia abyssinica Inga Seed, Blackseed, Guizotia Oléifere (French); Gingellikraut (German); Alashi (Oriya); Hechellu (Kannada); Karale (Marathi); Neehoog/Neuk (Tigrinya); Noug (Amharic); Payellu (Tamil); Ramtil (Hindi & Panjabi); Sarguza (Bengali); Sorguja (Assamese) Niger seed originated in Ethiopia, where it is now mainly cultivated, on approximately 250,000 Ha. It is also grown in marginal areas in India, and to some extent in East Africa and the West Indies. It is the most important edible oil crop in Ethiopia supplying about half of their oilseed production. It is a member of the Asteraceae (alt Compositeae) family. It is a short-day plant, an annual, 1-3m tall (up to 15m), which is frost tolerant, drought resistant and adapted to a wide range of soils. There are three main types: dwarf, semi-dwarf and giant. It is propagated by seed, which is about 3.5-5 mm long, contains 30-50% of a yellow semi-drying oil with a pleasant taste, and a protein content of about 20%. The oil from Ethiopian crops contains about 70% linoleic acid, while oil from crops grown in India contains about 50%. For farmers, it is much kinder plant to grow than safflower, as the plants do not have spines, and harvesting could be mechanised. More research is needed on this potentially useful source of edible plant oil. Detailed information is available online from the publications department of the Plant Genetic Resources Institute. PLANTING Propagation: Niger is self-sterile and needs bees for cross-pollination. Soil: Niger seed grows well in poor soils, if they are neither very acidic (it is classified as “sensitive” to soil acidity) nor waterlogged. Ph range 5.5-7.5. In fertile soils the plants may lodge (fall over) and have a prolonged growth period. It is not normally fertilised though it does normally respond to both fertilisers and manure. Seed rate: 5-8 kg/ha in rows (440-50cm apart), 8 - 12 kg/ha when broadcast (when NPK fertiliser is often broadcast together with the seed, then harrowed into the soil). Seed spacing: normally broadcast, sometimes in rows 35-50 cm apart. Depth: covered with light harrows when broadcast, otherwise about 1 cm deep in a fine tilth. Germination: the seed can be stored for a year or more without losing much viability. Intercropping: commonly done, with finger millet (ragi), cereals, legumes and other annuals. Rotation: works well with wheat and/or maize. GROWTH CONDITIONS Day length: intermediate response, varies with type, but most are short-day (do not flower or set seed until daylight hours average 13 hours or less). Growth period: 100-150 days. Temperature: very frost tolerant. Semi-dwarf types are adapted to temperate climates. Rainfall: about 600-1800mm a year for all types. Dwarf types are more drought resistant. Altitude: the optimum is around 2000-2200m, but it can be grown from about 1600-2600m. Pests and diseases: rarely a problem; locusts, grasshoppers & armyworms sometimes attack. YIELD When intercropped with finger millet in India Niger seed yields about 100-200 kg/ha. Pure stand yields have been recorded in both India and Ethiopia of about 300-400 kg/ha, 400-600 kg/ha in Kenya. 1.2MT/ha is possible with good growing conditions. Oil yields are 30-50% of seed yield. UTILISATION ? seeds of Niger seed are crushed, giving about 30% of a clear, edible semi-drying oil which is yellow in colour and tastes of nuts. Seeds can also be used fried or as chutneys and condiments, or fed to caged birds. In Ethiopia they are pressed with honey and made into cakes. ? oil is used for cooking, for making soap and for lighting; some is used in making paints. It is used as a substitute for olive oil, can be mixed with linseed oil, and is used as an adulterant for rape oil, sesame oil etc. ? whole plant can be used to attract bees, and also as a green manure (before flowering). ? presscake is used as a high protein (30-35%) food for animals, especially cattle. This black oilcake is comparable in feeding value to undecorticated groundnut cake. Up to 30% can be added to laying poultry rations. It is sometimes used as manure/soil improver. LIMITATIONS ? yields are rather modest. ? there is a shortage of improved varieties and of large quantities of good quality seed. ? the growing crop needs a well prepared seedbed, with very few or no weeds. ? the seeds are very small, and it is more difficult for subsistence farmers to extract oil from Niger seed than from other oilseed crops.


In India for instance, by interplanting sunflower with niger seed yields were nearly doubled. This increase was attributed to the greatly increased insect population attracted to niger.


Grow EarlyBird 50 Niger™ 

NEW Below is from a Canadian researcher:

Hi Glenn, 
This year my two one acre plots both averaged approx. 1000 lbs/acre. We ran out of water. I think 1/3 the yield of hybrid in vigor canola is about right in the longterm. We achieved good weed control using Edge and Everest. Still need more work to develop an appropriate rate for sulfentrazone to get kochia. I will be taking part in writing a review paper for the Canadian Journal of Plant Science so any information you have on the origins of the material you used in breeding the current cultivars would be appreciated. I am interested in helping with the introduction indevelopment of niger in western Canada. I was wondering if you have any other cultivars of similar maturity that I could evaluate. We sold 400 lbs through a local store very quickly less than a month.  

Another April 2007 comment from a grower in Manitoba, Canada:
Hello Glenn, We cleaned our niger and hauled it to a birdseed packager in Winnipeg today.  Worked out to a final yield of 660lbs per acre of clean seed.  We were pleasantly surprised.  Didn't think we had that much yield.  Maybe have to try this again, we'll see.

Raising Earlybird 50 Niger™ as a second crop:
2006 was the first year someone tried raising Earlybird 50 as a second crop.  He seeded 20 acres July 15 after taking off a crop of oats.  The crop was direct harvested on October 26 about 1 week after frost.   Many of the heads had just a few nice plump seeds, so we think there was inadequate pollination. The head samples I took were not well filled averaging only 12 seed/head or less than half of what should be expected.  He could locate only 10 hives of bees to pollinate the crop.  We believe 1 hive per acre is necessary.   He said first frost there is usually around October 1.  He used roundup after the oat harvest and a grass herbicide post emergence.  He put on 30 pounds of N.  The rows are 7 inches apart and the green you see in the picture (click on niger pictures) are winter annuals.  There were a few pigweeds in part of the field, but overall the field was very clean.  His yield was 450 pounds per acre.  He feels he should be able to double his yields.  He found it difficult to force air through the crop as the seed is so small and lost a small part of the crop through heating. This was west of Chicago, Illinois.

1. Earlybird 50 can be raised as second crop if you can get it out of the ground 75 days prior to frost.
         A, In July, Earlybird 50 can emerge in 4 days.
         B. Recommended seed depth is 1/2 to 3/4 inch, but can plant as deep as 2 inches to get to moisture. However when seeding deep use high seeding rates.
2. May be able to grow this crop when there is not enough season left for beans.
         A. Weeds less of a problem with summer seeding.  Roundup if needed prior to seeding, Trifluralin and Post herbicides have been approved in Minnesota
              and North Dakota.
         B. Sclerotina (white mold) which require cool, wet weather should be less of a problem.
3. Best results with at least 1 hive of bees per acre.
         A. Earlybird 50 is very attractive to honeybees and appears to produce much honey.
         B.  May be a good crop as late season cover and bee pasture.
4. At harvest. Watch crop when close to maturity:
         A.  Swath on the tough side as soon as any shattering becomes apparent.
         B.  Be set up to dry crop (Dry to 9% Moisture).  Seed is small and hard to force air through it.
Additional Information about growing this crop Earlybird 50™ is a low input crop with many similarities to buckwheat.  Both are low input crops. Both crops are very susceptible to frost.   They do not like hot day temperatures during flowering.  Treflan works with both of them.  Both require honeybees for pollination.  Both are short season, but Earlybird 50™ may require an additional week. Earlybird 50 yields half buckwheat, but is worth 3 to 5 times more per pound.

Trifluralin (treflan) is the preemergence herbicide. There are no real good post emergence herbicides.  MCPA has been approved in Minnesota and North Dakota, but rate and timing are critical.   I would use MCPA with great caution.  Apply no later than the 2 leaf stage at 1/2 pound rate.  Niger is related to sunflowers.  You can find information on herbicide response at:  http://www.mda.state.mn.us/food/mfocrops/niger.htm     Niger shows little response to fertilizer.  On low organic soils and/or if the preceding crop produced considerable straw, some nitrogen fertilizer will be necessary.

Seed at 6 to 8 pounds per acre.  Eight pounds and above when seeded early and threatened by frost, or drilled in a poor seedbed. Several fields that have received frost produced well due to late emerging plants and ability of niger to compensate.  Spring seeded niger will branch out and compensate for lower seeding rates.  When seeded in Spring, a four pound rate will yield almost as well as the 6 to 8 pound rates.

Glenn Page