Horticulture is the industry and science of plant cultivation. Horticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of plant propagation and cultivation, crop production, plant breeding and genetic engineering, plant biochemistry, and plant physiology. The work particularly involves fruits, berries, nuts, vegetables, flowers, trees, shrubs, and turf. Horticulturists work to improve crop yield, quality, nutritional value, and resistance to insects, diseases, and environmental stresses.
» The study of horticulture
» Horticulture and anthropology
The study of horticulture
Horticulture involves eight areas of study, which can be grouped into two broad sections - ornamentals and edibles:
Arboriculture the study and selection, planting, care, and removal of individual trees, shrubs, vines, and other perennial woody plants.
Floriculture (includes production and marketing of floral crops).
Landscape horticulture (includes production, marketing and maintenance of landscape plants).
Olericulture (includes production and marketing of vegetables).
Pomology (includes production and marketing of fruits).
Viticulture (includes production and marketing of grapes).
Postharvest physiology (involves maintaining quality and preventing spoilage of horticultural crops).
Horticulturists can work in industry, government or educational institutions or private collections. They can be cropping systems engineers, wholesale or retail business managers, propagators and tissue culture specialists (fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, and turf), crop inspectors, crop production advisers, extension specialists, plant breeders, research scientists, and of course, teachers.
Disciplines which complement horticulture include biology, botany, entomology, chemistry, mathematics, genetics, physiology, statistics, computer science, and communications, garden design, planting design. Plant science and horticulture courses include: plant materials, plant propagation, tissue culture, crop production, post-harvest handling, plant breeding, pollination management, crop nutrition, entomology, plant pathology, economics, and business. Some careers in horticultural science require a masters (MS) or doctoral (PhD) degree.
Horticulture is practised in many gardens, "plant growth centres" and nurseries. Activities in nurseries range from preparing seeds and cuttings to growing fully mature plants. These are often sold or transferred to ornamental gardens or market gardens.
Horticulture and anthropology
The origins of horticulture lie in the transition of human communities from nomadic hunter-gatherers to sedentary or semi-sedentary horticultural communities, cultivating a variety of crops on a small scale around their dwellings or in specialized plots visited occasionally during migrations from one area to the next. (such as the "milpa" or maize field of Mesoamerican cultures). In forest areas such horticulture is often carried out in swiddens ("slash and burn" areas). A characteristic of horticultural communities is that useful trees are often to be found planted around communities or specially retained from the natural ecosystem.
Horticulture sometimes differs from agriculture in (1) a smaller scale of cultivation, using small plots of mixed crops rather than large field of single crops (2) the cultivation of a wider variety of crops, often including fruit trees. In pre-contact North America the semi-sedentary horticultural communities of the Eastern Woodlands (growing maize, squash and sunflower) contrasted markedly with the mobile hunter-gatherer communities of the Plains people. In Central America, Maya horticulture involved augmentation of the forest with useful trees such as papaya, avocado, cacao, ceiba and sapodilla. In the cornfields, multiple crops were grown such as beans (using cornstalks as supports), squash, pumpkins and chilli peppers, in some cultures tended mainly or exclusively by women.
The Butchart Gardens, British Columbia, Canada
Cool climate greenhouse extend the growing season
Community gardens often have several horticultural practices in use
- von Hagen, V.W. (1957) The Ancient Sun Kingdoms Of The Americas. Ohio: The World Publishing Company
- McGee, J.R. and Kruse, M. (1986) Swidden horticulture among the Lacandon Maya [videorecording (29 mins.)]. University of California, Berkeley: Extension Media Center
- Thompson, S.I. (1977) Women, Horticulture, and Society in Tropical America. American Anthropologist, N.S., 79: 908-910