Harvest of voluntary Dandelion or eradication
Hello, we have a family farm in southeastern MN that will become certified 06/01/2017. We have an abundance of volunteer dandelions and as we are only in our third year of alfalfa as crop and soil regeneration the understanding is our soil still needs adjustment. Our question to you is will the dandelion issue correct itself the more we balance the soil or as our question posed do we harvest or are they worthy of harvest? If harvest is not advised is there a competitive plant that we might use that would be managed easily and could help with soil building. Our understanding is that the dandelion is growing either to sequester calcium or because there is the lack of calcium, which in turn allows the dandelion its right in the regeneration to balance. Could use some help if you have a moment. Thanks Chris Harris firstname.lastname@example.org
I am unable to find any resources or experts at this time to precisely answer your question, so I will provide some information that may help.
First of all, the question of whether or not to harvest the dandelion is dependent on whether you have either a market or a personal use for them. I don't know the size of your operation, so this affects the practicality of any attempt to manage or harvest them. In some communities, dandelions are sought after for their nutritional and medicinal qualities, as I'm sure you are aware. It all comes down to whether it makes economic sense. For most, I would venture to say, it would not. But for an enterprising person with the interest and resources, why not?
With respect to eradication, like so many perennial weeds, it takes time, awareness of how they propagate, and of course persistence. Dandelions propagate both vegetatively and by seed. You've likely got a healthy seedbank, not to mention plenty of roots. Strategic tillage can manage some weed seeds but with dandelion, tillage could aggravate the situation by cutting roots into smaller pieces, each of which can become a new plant. Ultimately, however, as you manage your primary crop, the dandelion should become less competitive. Fine tuning of the fertility and pH over time may also work against proliferation of the dandelion.
All this being said, there is no simple answer (welcome to farming!). We can only educate ourselves the best we can on how to work around nature's will to allow us to carve out what we want to grow for ourselves. I wish I had a better answer for you! I did find a few articles that I hope will help you in your endeavors.
Weed Management for Organic Crops: http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/7250.pdf
Design the Cropping System to Minimize Niches for Weed Growth: https://articles.extension.org/pages/18697/design-the-cropping-system-to-minimize-niches-for-weed-growth
The biology and non-chemical control of Dandelion (Taraxacum Spp.):https://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/sites/www.gardenorganic.org.uk/files/organic-weeds/taraxacum-spp.pdf