A horticulture student tending to plants in a garden in Lawrenceville, Georgia, March 2015
Typical cart used in horticulture in Vottem, Belgium

Horticulture is the art and science of growing plants. This definition is seen in its etymology, which is derived from the Latin words hortus, which means "garden" and cultura which means "to cultivate".[1] It is important to note that there are various divisions of horticulture because plants are grown for a variety of reasons.[2] In anthropology, horticulture refers to a subsistence strategy characterized by the small-scale, non-industrial cultivation of plants for food.[3] Horticulture is typically small-scale or ornamental, as compared to the larger-scale cultivation of crops that is seen in agriculture. However, there are aspects of horticulture that are industrialized/commercial such as greenhouse production across the globe.

There are many disciplines or areas within horticulture that require highly specialized skills and knowledge of the horticulturist. For each of these, there are various job-positions, aspects, tools used and associated challenges.

Horticulture started with the domestication of plants.[4] At first, only plants for sustenance were grown and maintained, but eventually as humanity became more and more sedentary, plants were grown for their ornamental value. Horticulture is considered to have diverged from agriculture when people started growing plants for pleasure, rather than just for sustenance.[5]

Today, horticulture is fundamental to our society and ways of life. There are emerging technologies to facilitate ease within the industry, but these also have their consequences, environmentally.

There are many organizations and societies around the world, that are formed by horticulturists and those within the industry. These include The Royal Horticultural Society, International Society for Horticultural Science,[6] The American Society of Horticultural Science,[7] The Horticultural Society of India, The Global Horticulture Initiative, The Chartered Institute of Horticulture and The Australian Society of Horticultural Science - to name a few.

Divisions of Horticulture and Types of Horticulturists

The divisions of horticulture include:

It includes the cultivation of all plants including, but not limited to: ornamental trees/shrubs/plants, fruits, vegetables, flowers, turf, nuts, seeds, herbs and other medicinal/edible plants.

Horticulturists, are those who study and practice horticulture professionally. There are many different types of horticulturists with different job-titles, including: gardener, grower, farmer, arborist, floriculturist, landscaper, agronomist, designer, landscape architect, lawn-care specialist, nursery manager, botanical garden curator, horticulture therapist, and much more.[11] They may be hired by a variety of companies/institutions including, but not limited to: botanical gardens, private/public gardens, parks, cemeteries, greenhouses, golf courses, vineyards, estates, landscaping companies, nurseries, educational institutions, etc. They may also be self-employed.

History

Horticulture has been deeply integrated into humanity's history for at least the past 20,000 years.[4] The history of horticulture overlaps with the history of agriculture and history of botany. This is because they all originated with the domestication of various plants for food.[4] In Europe, agriculture and horticulture diverged at some point during the Middle Ages.[5]

Early Practices in Horticulture

Early practices in horticulture include a number of various ways that people managed the land (using an assortment of tools), with a variety of methods and types of plants cultivated for a number of uses. Methods, tools and plants grown, have always depended on the culture and climate. There are a number of traditional horticultural practices that we know of today: such as Indigenous peoples using biochar to enhance soil productivity by smoldering plant waste[12] - European settlers called this soil Terra Preta de Indio.[13] In forested areas, horticultural practices were seen in swiddens, or "slash and burn" areas.[14] In pre-colonized North America, the semi-sedentary Indigenous people of the Eastern Woodlands grew maize, squash, and sunflower - among other crops. Mesoamerican cultures focused on the cultivating of crops on a small scale, such as the "milpa" or maize field, around their dwellings or in specialized plots which were visited occasionally during migrations from one area to the next.[15] In Central America, the Maya involved augmentation of the forest with useful trees such as papaya, avocado, cacao, ceiba and sapodilla. In the cornfields, multiple crops such as beans, squash, pumpkins and chili peppers were grown. The first horticulturists in some cultures, were mainly or exclusively women.[16]

Historical Uses for Plants in Horticulture

A part from the medicinal and nutritional values that plants hold, plants have also been grown for their beauty, and to impress and demonstrate power/knowledge/status/wealth of those in-control of the cultivated plant material. This symbolic power that plants hold has existed since the beginnings of their cultivation.[17]

There is evidence that various gardens maintained by the Aztec were sacred, as they grew plants that held religious value. Plants were grown for their metaphorical relation to Gods and Goddesses.[5] Flowers held symbolic power in religious rites as they were offered to the Gods, as well as were given in ceremonies to leaders to demonstrate their connection to the Gods.[5]

Flower seedlings at a market in Breda, Netherlands

Aspects of Horticulture

Propagation

Main article: Plant propagation

Plant propagation in horticulture is the process in which the multiplication of a species or cultivar is controlled to fit the desire of the horticulturist. It is primarily used to increase the number of individual plants while preserving wanted genetic and morphological characteristics. Propagation involves both sexual or asexual methods.[18] In sexual propagation seeds are used, while asexual propagation involves the division of plants, separation of tubers, corms, and bulbs and techniques such as cutting, layering, grafting.[19]

Plant selection

When selecting plants to cultivate, a horticulturist may consider aspects based on the plants intended use and can include plant morphology, rarity, and utility.[20] When selecting plants for the landscape, there are necessary observations of the location that must be made first. Considerations as to soil-type, temperature/climate, light, moisture, and pre-existing plants are made. These evaluations of the given environment are taken into consideration when selecting plant material for the location. Plant selection may be for annual displays, or they may be for more permanent plantings. Characteristics of the plant such as mature height/size, colour, growth habit, ornamental value, flowering time and invasive potential are what finalizes the plant selection process.

Controlling environmental/growing variables

Environmental factors that effect plant development include: temperature, light, water, pH, nutrient availability, weather events (rain, snow, sleet, hail and freezing rain, dew, wind and frost) humidity, elevation, terrain, and micro-climate effects.[2] In horticulture, these environmental variables may be avoided, controlled or manipulated in an indoor growing environment.

Temperature

Plants require specific temperatures to grow and develop properly. Temperature control can be done through a variety of methods. Covering plants with plastic in the form of cones, called hot caps, or tunnels can help to manipulate the surrounding temperature. Mulching is also an effective method to protect outdoor plants from frost during the wintertime. Inside, other frost prevention methods include the use of wind machines, heaters, and sprinklers.[21]

Light

Plants have evolved to require different amounts of light, and lengths of daytime; their growth and development is determined by the amount of light/light intensity that they receive. Control of this may be achieved artificially through the use of fluorescent lights in an indoor setting. Manipulating the amount of light also controls flowering. Lengthening the day encourages the flowering of long-day plants and discourages the flowering of short-day plants.[21]

Water

Water management methods involve employing irrigation and drainage systems, controlling soil moisture to the needs of the species. Methods of irrigation include surface irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, subirrigation, and trickle irrigation. Volume of water, pressure, and frequency are changed to optimise the growing environment. On a small scale watering can be done manually.[21]

Growing media

The choice of growing media and components to the media help support plant life. Within a greenhouse environment, growers may choose to grow their plants in an aquaponic system where there is no soil used. Oftentimes growers within a greenhouse setting will opt for a soilless mix which doesn't include any actual components of naturally occurring soil. These mixes offer advantages such as water absorption, sterility, and are generally very available within the industry.

Soil management methods are broad, but includes the use of fertilizers, planned crop rotation to prevent the degradation of soils that are seen in monocultures, applying fertilizers, and soil analysis.[21]

Further information: CULTAN Fertilization

Control by use of enclosed environments

Abiotic factors such as weather, light and temperature are all things that can be manipulated with enclosed environments such as cold frames, greenhouses, conservatories, poly houses and shade houses. Materials that are used in the construction of these buildings are chosen based on the climate, purpose and budget.

Cold frames provide an enclosed environment, they are built close to the ground and with a top made of glass or plastic. The glass or plastic allows sunlight into the frame during the day and prevents heat loss that would have been lost as long-wave radiation at night. This allows plants to start to be grown before the growing season starts. Greenhouses/conservatories are similar in function, but are larger in construction and heated with an external energy source. They can be built out of glass, although they are now primarily made from plastic sheets. More expensive and modern greenhouses can include temperature control through shade and light control or air-conditioning as well as automatic watering. Shade houses provide shading to limit water loss by evapotranspiration.[21]

Challenges

Abiotic stresses

Commercial horticulture is required to support a rapidly growing population with demands for its products.[22] Due to global climate change, extremes in temperatures, strength of precipitation events, flood frequency, and drought length and frequency are increasing. Together with other abiotic stressors such salinity, heavy metal toxicity, UV damage, and air pollution, stressful environments are created for crop production. This is extrapolated as evapotranspiration is increased, soils are degraded of their nutrients, and oxygen levels are depleted, resulting in up to a 70% loss in crop yield.

Biotic stresses

Living organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, insects, weeds and native plants are sources of biotics stresses and can deprive the host of its nutrients.[23] Plants respond to these stresses using defence mechanisms such as morphological and structural barriers, chemical compounds, proteins, enzymes and hormones.[24] The impact of biotic stresses can be prevented using practices such as incorporate tilling, spraying or Integrated Pest Management (IPM).[25]

Harvest management

Care is required to reduce damages and losses to horticultural crops during harvest.[26] Compression forces occur during harvesting, and horticultural goods can be hit in a series of impacts during transport and packhouse operations. Different techniques are used to minimize mechanical injuries and wounding to plants such as:[27]

Emerging technology

Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR/Cas9) has recently gained recognition as a highly efficient, simplified, precise, and low cost method of altering the genomes of species.[28] Since 2013, CRISPR has been used to enhance a variety of species of grains, fruits, and vegetables. Crops are modified to increase their resistance to biotic and abiotic stressors such as parasites, disease, and drought as well as increase yield, nutrition, and flavor.[29] Additionally, CRISPR has been used to edit undesirable traits, for example, reducing the browning and production of toxic and bitter substances of potatoes. CRISPR has also been employed to solve issues of low pollination rates and low fruit yield common in greenhouses. As compared to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), CRISPR does not add any alien DNA to the plant's genes.[30]

Organizations

There are various organizations worldwide that focus on promoting and encouraging research and education in all branches of horticultural science; such organizations include the International Society for Horticultural Science[6] and the American Society of Horticultural Science.[7]

In the United Kingdom, there are two main horticulture societies. The Ancient Society of York Florists is the oldest horticultural society in the world and was founded in 1768; this organization continues to host four horticultural shows annually in York, England.[31] Additionally, The Royal Horticultural Society, established in 1804, is a charity in United Kingdom that leads on the encouragement and improvement of the science, art, and practice of horticulture in all its branches.[32] The organization shares the knowledge of horticulture through its community, learning programs, and world-class gardens and shows.[citation needed]

The Chartered Institute of Horticulture (CIoH) is the professional body which represents horticulturists in Great Britain and Ireland[33] while also having an international branch for members outside of these islands. The Australian Society of Horticultural Science was established in 1990 as a professional society to promote and enhance Australian horticultural science and industry.[34] Finally, the New Zealand Horticulture Institute is another known horticultural organization.[35]

In India, the Horticultural Society of India (now Indian Academy of Horticultural Sciences) is the oldest society which was established in 1941 at Lyallpur, Punjab (now in Pakistan) but was later shifted to Delhi in 1949.[36] The other notable organization in operation since 2005 is the Society for Promotion of Horticulture based at Bengaluru.[37] Both these societies publish scholarly journals – Indian Journal of Horticulture and Journal of Horticultural Sciences for the advancement of horticultural sciences.[citation needed] Horticulture in the Indian state of Kerala is spearheaded by Kerala State Horticulture Mission.

The National Junior Horticultural Association (NJHA) was established in 1934 and was the first organization in the world dedicated solely to youth and horticulture. NJHA programs are designed to help young people obtain a basic understanding of horticulture and develop skills in this ever-expanding art and science.[38]

The Global Horticulture Initiative (GlobalHort) fosters partnerships and collective action among different stakeholders in horticulture. This organization has a special focus on horticulture for development (H4D), which involves using horticulture to reduce poverty and improve nutrition worldwide. GlobalHort is organized in a consortium of national and international organizations which collaborate in research, training, and technology-generating activities designed to meet mutually-agreed-upon objectives. GlobalHort is a non-profit organization registered in Belgium.[39]

See also

References

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Further reading