Horticulture (Hortus- garden, culture- cultivation) is the agriculture of plants, mainly for food, materials, comfort and beauty for decoration. Horticulturists apply knowledge, skills, and technologies to grow intensively produced plants for human food and non-food uses and for personal or social needs. Their work involves plant propagation and cultivation with the aim of improving plant growth, yields, quality, nutritional value and resistance to insects, diseases and environmental stresses. They work as gardeners, growers, therapists, designers, and technical advisors in the food and non-food sectors of horticulture.
The word horticulture is modeled after agriculture, and comes from the Latin hortus "garden" and cultura "cultivation", from cultus, the perfect passive participle of the verb col? "I cultivate".Hortus is cognate with the native English word yard (in the meaning of land associated with a building) and also the borrowed word garden.
Horticulture has a very long history. The study and science of horticulture dates all the way back to the times of Cyrus the Great of ancient Persia, and has been going on ever since, with present-day horticulturists such as Freeman S. Howlett and Luther Burbank. The practice of horticulture can be retraced for many thousands of years. The cultivation of taro and yam in Papua New Guinea dates back to at least 6950-6440 cal BP. 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 the Pre-Columbian Amazon Rainforest, natives are believed to have used biochar to enhance soil productivity by smoldering plant waste. European settlers called it Terra Preta de Indio. 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 primarily differs from agriculture in two ways. First, it generally encompasses a smaller scale of cultivation, using small plots of mixed crops rather than large fields of single crops. Secondly, horticultural cultivations generally include a wide variety of crops, even including fruit trees with ground crops. Agricultural cultivations however as a rule focus on one primary crop. 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.
Since 1804 The Royal Horticultural Society, a UK charity, leads on the encouragement and improvement of the science, art and practice of horticulture in all its branches and shares this knowledge through its community and learning programmes, world class gardens and shows. The oldest Horticultural society in the world, founded in 1768, is the Ancient Society of York Florists. They still have four shows a year in York, UK.
The professional body representing horticulturists in Great Britain and Ireland is the Chartered Institute of Horticulture (CIoH). Also, the CIoH has an international branch for members outside of these islands.
The National Junior Horticultural Association (NJHA) was established in 1934 and was the first organisation in the world dedicated solely to youth and horticulture. NJHA programs are designed to help young people obtain a basic understanding of, and develop skills in, the ever-expanding art and science of horticulture.
The Global Horticulture Initiative (GlobalHort) fosters more efficient and effective partnerships and collective action among different stakeholders in horticulture. The organisation has a special focus on horticulture for development (H4D), i.e. using horticulture to reduce poverty and improve nutrition worldwide. To be efficient, GlobalHort is organised in a consortium of national and international organisations to collaborate in research, training, and technology-generating activities designed to meet mutually-agreed-upon objectives. GlobalHort is a not-for-profit organisation registered in Belgium.
^Fullagar, Richard, Judith Field, Tim Denham, and Carol Lentfer (2006) Early and mid Holocene tool-use and processing of taro (Colocasia esculenta), yam (Dioscorea sp.) and other plants at Kuk Swamp in the highlands of Papua New Guinea Journal of Archaeological Science 33: 595-614
^von Hagen, V.W. (1957) The Ancient Sun Kingdoms Of The Americas. Ohio: The World Publishing Company
^Solomon, Dawit, Johannes Lehmann, Janice Thies, Thorsten Schafer, Biqing Liang, James Kinyangi, Eduardo Neves, James Petersen, Flavio Luizao, and Jan Skjemstad, Molecular signature and sources of biochemical recalcitrance of organic carbone in Amazonian Dark Earths, Geochemica et cosmochemica ACTA 71.9 2285-2286 (2007) ("Amazonian Dark Earths (ADE) are a unique type of soils apparently developed between 500 and 9000 years B.P. through intense anthropogenic activities such as biomass-burning and high-intensity nutrient depositions on pre-Columbian Amerindian settlements that transformed the original soils into Fimic Anthrosols throughout the Brazilian Amazon Basin.") (internal citations omitted)
^Glaser, Bruno, Johannes Lehmann, and Wolfgang Zech, Ameliorating physical and chemical properties of highly weathered soils in the tropics with charcoal - a review, Biology and Fertility of Soils 35.4 219-220 (2002) ("These so called Terra Preta do Indio (Terra Preta) characterize the settlements of pre-Columbian Indios. In Terra Preta soils large amounts of black C indicate a high and prolonged input of carbonized organic matter probably due to the production of charcoal in hearths, whereas only low amounts of charcoal are added to soils as a result of forest fires and slash-and-burn techniques.") (internal citations omitted)
^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: 908-10