Marigold flower pigments can be extracted and used as a natural source of food colorants in the poultry and dairy industry. These pigments impart an orange color to egg yolks and a yellowish color to dairy products. We examined four African marigold cultivars for their ability to be commercially grown and harvested mechanically. `E-1236' yielded the highest quantity of lutein (22 kg/ha), a carotenoid pigment, using a spectrophotometer for quantification. `E-1236' and `A-975' were the earliest flowering cultivars, 11 June 1998 for transplants and 9 July 1998 for direct-seeded, at 8 weeks after sowing regardless of field establishment method. `E-1236' produced the greatest number of flowers in a production season, both as transplants (68 flowers/plant) and direct-seeded (57 flowers/plant) at 363,290 plants/ha. Transplants resulted in two more harvests in a single season than direct-seeded plants. Subsequently, more flowers and petal material were produced for pigment extraction than with direct-seeded plants. A one-time application of ammonium nitrate (28.02 kg/ha) at mid-season did not significantly effect flower number, flower weight, or pigment yield. Experiment was repeated in 1999 with four cultivars, two field establishment methods, seven harvest dates, and five nitrogen applications.