What is Horticulture?
There are two main branches of plant agriculture: agronomy and horticulture. Since both deal with the cultivation and development of crops, it can sometimes be a challenge separating one from the other. However, if you hope to become an expert in, get a better understanding of, and develop a particular skill set in the field of horticulture, it is important to learn the proper definition of this area of agriculture.
Unfortunately, even the people working and teaching in the industry have a hard time defining it. Here are a few writings from various authorities in the industry that may shed some light on exactly what horticulture is.
The term “horticulture” is a Latin derivation of “hortus” which means garden and “cultura” which means cultivation. Liberty Hyde Bailey is generally accepted as the father of horticulture science (along with Thomas Andrew Knight and John Lindley). He was an American scholar who defined horticulture as the production of flowers, plants, vegetables, and fruit for decoration and fun.
Janick contrasted horticulture from agronomy by stating that horticulture is mostly concerned with garden crops like flowers, whereas agronomy focuses on forestry (trees) and field crops like grains. Officially, he defined horticulture as an area of agriculture that focuses on cultured plants used by humans for food, medicine, or decoration.
The official definition offered by Louisiana State University states that horticulture is the art and science of cultivating, reproducing, and marketing of decorative plants, turf, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. In addition to using technology and science, horticulture also includes principles of art and design.
Lastly, the University of Minnesota opines that horticulture focuses on production of high-value, luxury crops for human use and aesthetics as opposed to the cultivation of staple crops for animal use.
Out of these opinions we can cull a general definition of horticulture as being:
- A mix of science and art that incorporates elements of design.
- A form of agriculture that deals mostly with high-value and cultured crops
- An industry that deals almost exclusively in plants used by man for food, medicine, and decorations.