The word horticulture translates as "garden cultivation," or to cultivate garden plants. It was first used in publication in 1631 and was an entry in The New World of English Words in 1678. Today horticulture means the science, technology, art, business, and hobby of producing and managing fruits, vegetables, flowers and ornamental plants, landscapes, interior plantscapes, and grasses and turfgrasses. Although horticulture has been practiced for several millennia, it became a recognized academic and scientific discipline as it emerged from botany and medicinal botany in the late nineteenth century. Liberty Hyde Bailey, professor of horticulture at both Michigan State and Cornell Universities, is credited as the father of American horticulture, as he founded the first academic departments of horticulture.
Modern horticulture encompasses plant production (both commercial and gardening) and science, both practical and applied. Horticulture and the associated green industries are a rapidly developing professional field with increasing importance to society. The direct "farm-gate" value of horticultural crop production in the United States exceeds $40 billion; the overall value to the economy is much higher due to value added in preparation and preservation, or installation, and use and maintenance of horticultural plants and products.
Horticultural plants include fresh fruits and vegetables, herbaceous annual and perennial flowering plants, flowers produced as cut flowers for vase display, woody shrubs and trees, ornamental grasses, and turfgrasses used for landscapes and sports facilities. The crops encompass plants from tropical areas (fruits, vegetables, and tropical foliage plants) to those from the temperate zone. Horticulture crops are typically consumed or used as freshly harvested products and therefore are short-lived after harvest. Product quality, nutrition, flavor, and aesthetic appearance are important attributes of horticultural crops and are the goal of production and management. The production of horticultural plants is typified by intense management, high management cost, environmental control, significant technology use, and high risk. However, the plants, because of their high value as crops, result in very high economic returns. Horticultural crop plant production and maintenance requires extensive use of soil manipulation (including use of artificial or synthetic soil mixes), irrigation, fertilization, plant growth regulation, pruning/pinching/trimming, and environmental control. Plants can be grown in natural environments, such as orchards, vineyards, or groves for fruits, grapes, nuts, and citrus, or as row crops for vegetables. Plants can also be produced in very confined environments, such as in nurseries, greenhouses, growth rooms, or in pots. Horticultural plants exhibit wide varia-
hybridization formation of a new individual from parents of different species or varieties fertigation application of small amounts of fertilizer while irrigating hydroponic growing without soil, in a watery medium physiology the biochemical processes carried out by an organism tion and diversity in their cultivated varieties (cultivars) with differences in flower or fruit color and plant shape, form, size, color, or flavor and aroma adding to that diversity and to the plants' value.
Horticultural plants are very important to human health and well being and are critical to the environment of homes, communities, and the world. Horticulture food crops play an important role in human nutrition. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables be consumed daily to provide important nutrients and vitamins and to maintain overall good health. The use of landscape plants has been demonstrated to increase the property value of homes and improve communities and the attitudes of those owning or using the property. Use of plants in the landscape, development of public parks and green-belts, and planting trees all help remediate pollution and contribute to production of oxygen in the air. Plants used indoors, whether flowers or house plants or interior plant scaping, improve the indoor environment by purifying air, removing some pollutants and dusts, and adding beauty, thereby improving the attitude and well being of those who occupy or use the inside areas.
A number of techniques are used in horticulture. New plant cultivars are developed through plant hybridization and genetic engineering. The number of plants is increased through plant propagation by seeds, cuttings, grafting, and plant tissue and cell culture. Plant growth can be controlled by pinching, pruning, bending, and training. Plant growth, flowering, and fruiting can also be controlled or modified by light and temperature variation. Further, growth and flowering can be altered by the use of growth-regulating chemicals and/or plant hormones. The rate of plant growth and quality of plant products are controlled by managing fertilizer and nutrient application through fertigation or hydroponic solution culture. Posthar-vest product longevity is controlled by manipulating plant or product hormone physiology or by controlling respiration by lowering temperature or modifying environmental gas content.
The scientific and technological disciplines of horticulture include plant genetics, plant breeding, genetic engineering and molecular biology, variety development, propagation and tissue culture, crop and environmental physiology, plant nutrition, hormone physiology and growth regulation, plant physical manipulation (pruning and training), and environmental control. The crop disciplines of horticulture include pomology (fruit and nut culture), viticulture (grape production), enology (wine production), olericulture (vegetable culture), floriculture (flower culture) and greenhouse management, ornamental horticulture and nursery production, arboriculture (tree maintenance), landscape horticulture, interior plant scaping, turf management, and postharvest physiology, preservation, and storage. see also Agriculture, Modern; Botanical Gardens and Arboreta; Horticulturist; Hydroponics; Ornamental Plants; Propagation.
Curt R. Rom
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