Rows of rectangular sections of plants are seen in a greenhouse.

The Progressiveness of Horticulture and Its Beneficial Future Post COVID-19

Horticulture. One of the few great realizations brought on by the pandemic.

In the last year, people were forced to stay indoors, away from their workplace and leisure activities. They hurriedly bought food and necessities at the closest available grocery store. The uncertainty of the lockdown’s duration grew. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into more than one year.

However, since the administration of the vaccine, normalcy returns to the world in small steps. People work in their office spaces, certain leisure activities begin again, and students return to their learning institutions.

Additionally, this led to a  realization among those staying at home. The unpredictability of such situations may lead to another rush of panic. Food security and its uncertainty is seen through a different scope, its situation as unpredictable as what the future holds.

During the lockdown, many aided feelings of isolation, restlessness, and anger through gardening. It started as a hobby but grew into something of greater importance. People realized that there is a possible way to secure their food supply. Growing their own.

Therefore, horticulture became a widely researched topic. From simply growing flowers, people evolved to fruit and vegetables during the pandemic. Moreover, they continue to do so as restrictions lessen.

Horticulture is far from a new concept. It has been around for tens of thousands of years, starting in the ancient years. Its past forms evolved through the years, giving us information and methods to lead a more sustainable and healthier life.

 

Introduction to Horticulture

A colour photograph showing a path, and on either side are green plants growing healthily and in abundance in a greenhouse.
image source: britannica.com

Horticulture comes from two Latin terms: hortus (garden) and cultura (cultivation).

An art and science, horticulture focuses on the growing of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and ornamental plants. It is the only plant science that incorporates the science and aesthetics of plants. It ranges from planting in gardens to food production and medicinal ingredients.

However, slight confusion arises between horticulture and two other sciences concerning plants. ‘Crop science’, the study of the world’s major food, turf, and fiber crops. This discipline focuses on the production, improvement, and marketing of such products. ‘Botany’, the academic study of plants. It does not focus on plant use, improvement, and marketing.

Although it may seem similar, it differs from agriculture. Horticulture focuses on specialized practices. Its operations are on a smaller scale.

Similarly, gardening and horticulture are of the same branch. They focus on the growing and cultivation of plants, but one is done in a professional manner.

Forms of Horticulture

There are many forms of horticulture, but four take precedence.

  1. Olericulture. From the Latin words olerus (vegetable) and cultura, this focuses on the production of vegetables.
  2. Pomology. From the Latin words pomo (fruit) and logus (study, knowledge), this form focuses on the production of fruit.
  3. Floriculture. Where florus (flower) meets cultura, this form centers around the production and study of flowering and ornamental plants.
  4. Post-Harvest. This deals with the methods of handling, packaging, and processing harvested crops. As a result, their storage life and availability increases.

The other forms are:

  1. Viticulture. Vitis (wine) meets cultura. It is the production of grapes, specifically for wine-making purposes.
  2. Turf management concentrates on turf grass for sports, leisure, and convenient use.
  3. Arboriculture, where arbor (tree) joins cultura, is the cultivation and care of individual trees and perennial woody plants.
  4. Landscape horticulture is the selection, production, and care of plants in landscape architecture. Landscaping refers to the art of beatifying a piece of land. It involves using garden designs, methods, and plant materials.

The Neolithic Age and Horticulture

An artist's interpretation of horticulture during the neolithic age, where people can be seen tending to their animals in large fields of wheat close to their homes.
image source: stmuscholars.org

Horticulture in the Neolithic Age proved to be a turning point in human history. It shows humanity’s response to the changing environment. As a result, the development of horticulture and agriculture came to be.

About 20 000 years ago, pre-historical humans began a trial-and-error process in domestication of wild plants and animals. Therefore, they evolved from nomadic goods collectors to settled food producers. The reason being is that their long-term processes of food security required a lot of care. Hence, settlements allowed them to regulate their food supply.

By 3 000 BCE, evidence shows the beginning of crop domestication.

In the very beginning, their efforts required hard manual labour. First, the crops grew near the dwellings of pre-historic farmers. Then, gradually, they spread into the countryside.

However, there is no exact date for the start of enclosed yards. Yet, evidence shows that as early as 3 000 BCE, enclosed vegetable and fruit yards existed in ancient Sumeria. In short, it showed vegetables growing in rows and watered by irrigation systems.

The evolution of horticulture continued through the years, even with the tools used.

In 40 000 BCE, pre-historical humans used bone digging sticks for soft soil, a precursor for a shovel. Pike-like mattocks broke hard soil, a precursor to the hoe. Between 5 000 and 4 800 BCE, the early form of the plough developed.

As the years went on, to determine a plant’s conditions for survival, humans began observing their crops. Additionally, this led to the identification of weeds, pests, and diseases.

Moreover, they implemented different treatments on their plants and crops. One required animal sacrifices to ward off disease and pestilence. Another was hand-picking noxious insects off plants.

In many cultures, women were the main garden cultivators. Men usually worked in the field.

 

Ancient Egypt and Horticulture

A discovered illustration of ancient Egyptian horticulture, showing a man and woman cutting down wheat in Egyptian art form.
image source: fao.org

Historians believe ancient Egypt to be the birthplace of horticulture. The Egyptian temples cultivated fruit trees, palms, and grape vines.

However, the horticultural advances did not occur within Egypt. Borrowed and refined, the ancient Egyptian advances were adapted from discovered innovations from other parts of the world.

On the other hand, they introduced the first hydraulic engineering and systematic irrigation systems. This advancement made us of canals and dikes. The discovered illustrations show small irrigation systems within the temples. Although it is likely that it was initially invented by the Sumerians, but improved and modified by the Egyptians.

They cultivated a wide range of food, a variety of herbs and spices, and medicinal plants. Moreover, they grew over 200 species of flowering and aromatic plants. Plants growing in pots show they understood container gardening.

In addition to their own advances, present-day gardening uses their methods and techniques. Firstly, symmetrical and rectangular garden layouts prove to be an efficient way to irrigate plants and crops. As well, it provides easy access for weeding and harvesting. Secondly, linked terraces held multiple levels of gardens. Thirdly, adding water features to gardens as an aesthetic. Fourthly, using walls, tree lines, or pergolas to separate garden sections. Fifthly, classifying gardens according to form and what grew.

Horticulture in ancient Egypt linked to myths, folklore, and religion. This is seen in their early gardens, as well as in today’s modern culture.

 

Horticulture of Greece and Rome

Ancient Greek depiction of ornamental horticulture, where a group of women are seen in an aesthetically pleasing garden.
image source: brewminate.com

Ancient Greek writings on agriculture and horticulture spread throughout the world. This influenced ancient Rome’s methods during the rise of its empire. Additionally, it influenced medieval herbalists later on.

The ancient Greeks introduced knowledge of grafting, budding, legume rotation, and enclosed, sheltered gardening. Soon, it spread to the Roman Empire.

As for ancient Rome’s advances, their horticultural activities expanded to country estates. Within those country estates were fruit orchards, flower gardens, as well as decorated and landscaped gardens.

Around the 2nd century BCE, the ancient Romans refined and improved their practices and techniques. They began creating specialized tools, such as pruning knives and fruit-picking ladders.

The ancient Greek and Roman methods to prevent pest and disease damage involved performing sacrifices and applying folk remedies.

Their horticultural practices influenced the development of European horticulture for centuries.

 

Horticulture of China and Japan

An artist's illustration of levels used in ancient Chinese horticulture, were people are seen working in the rice fields, harvesting and cultivating.
image source: chinatoday.com.cn

What sets ancient China and ancient Japan apart is their centuries-long isolation from other centers of development. In other words, their methods are their own.

Ancient China

Among their horticultural innovations were the cast iron hoe and single-wheeled wheelbarrow.

Around the 2nd century BCE, they used heated structures to grow alliums (flowering plants such as garlic and scallions).

In the 1200s, oiled paper composed their greenhouses. There, they grew their flowers and vegetables.

Documented in their writings were their ornamental gardens. They contained artificial hills, water features, and irregularly shaped rocks.

Ancient Japan

Ancient Chinese ornamental designs influenced ancient Japan.

Their Zen gardens are a famed Japanese design known around the world. With a focus on Zen Buddhism, the gardens have a meditative focus.

Flower cultivation and arrangement were art, with many plants holding a symbolic meaning.

 

The Importance of Horticulture

Rows of rectangular sections of plants are seen in a greenhouse.
image source: bitlanders.com

Horticulture’s importance lies with continued sustenance. Additionally, with the combination of modern technology and techniques of the past, it maintains a levelled well-being within individuals.

Landscapes continue to develop. With that, there is the need for sustainable landscape systems. This is essential for the growth of horticultural practices, as well as its importance to the environment.

However, what sets it apart is the focus and care put into the growth of plants. As well, horticulture uses a combination of applied and basic methods. Therefore, there is further understanding and managing of plant cultivation.

Above all, there is a wide scope of plant materials.

Fruit and vegetables are important as energy-giving materials for the human body. They are a source of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, flavor, and aroma. Moreover, they provide health-benefiting compounds and medicine.

Along with the aesthetic value, horticulture plays its part in protecting the environment. The plants produce an abundance of oxygen through photosynthesis. As well, they remove the chemicals and bacteria floating in the air.

All this is done through the work of horticulturalists. Farmers work their hardest to provide the freshest vegetables and fruit for their consumers, along with the beauty of flowers and plants.

The Economy

Horticulture plays a role in a nation’s economy. It makes up a segment of a country’s total agricultural production. This segment is comprised of many factors within horticultural practices, such as the benefits of high export value, best utilization of wasteland, and the provision of raw materials for industries.

In addition to a country’s economy, horticulture improves farmers’ economic conditions. The livelihood of the unprivileged classes improves. Many of the harvesting and production processes offer employment opportunities for women in rural areas.

Being an international and national demand, it serves as a good source of foreign exchange.

 

COVID-19 and Horticulture

A colour image of a man wearing a mask while in a large field of vegetables, harvesting, and showing the progress of horticulture during the pandemic.
image source: transferencia.tec.mx

COVID-19 changed the quality of life. The infection and quarantine measures disrupted the regular flow of goods and their connected sources. It changed the political, environmental, and economic way of life.

It affected the agricultural industry, and therefore, affected the consumers. Businesses needed to adapt to what would become the new normal.

With the regular flow disrupted, there were shortages and a lack of availability and labour. Additionally, there was a reduction in demand for certain food products and flowers.

Horticultural practices, just like the agricultural industry, put themselves on hold. The quarantine measures put a halt on exporting plants, fruit, and vegetables from known locations. The reason being is that specific measures need to be taken to ensure nothing becomes contaminated. At the same time, in a time of food security concerns, people began their own gardening. Starting small with a few plants, they branched out to grow their own own fruit, vegetables, and herbs. However, this does indicate that people will become less reliant on the hard work done by horticulturalists. It means that should a pandemic cause another lockdown, they will be better and sustainably prepared.

 

Horticulture and the Future

A colour photograph showing the future of horticulture, innovatiosn seen through the new technology to advance current methods and techniques.
image source: reascheath.ac.uk

COVID-19 taught the human population that at any given moment, there will be unpredictable circumstances. These circumstances will hinder the routines we follow in our daily lives. By disrupting those routines, it leads to anarchy within our own mental state. Added to that is the uncertainty of normalcy’s return.

Scientists predict that within the next ten years, we will face the same situation as 2020. Viruses such as COVID do not disappear, they only get stronger with time. In other words, the time will come for us to remain in our homes once again as the battle for health and safety commences on a larger scale.

While another pandemic will affect horticultural practices, that will not stop its professionals from completing their purpose. They remain heavily involved in trends of sustainability and green energy. For example, the majority of modern-day buildings come with green roofs, where plants and small amounts of crops can grow. As a result, there is natural insulation. The buildings remain warm during the cold months and cool during the warm months. Moreover, there are reduced expenses and reliance on conventional methods.

Another benefit of green roofs is urban hydrology, where the collection of rainwater is used inside buildings.

In the combat against climate change, horticulture plays a crucial role in the architecture and maintenance of infrastructure solutions. As new technology develops, there are endless possibilities for what horticulturists thrive to accomplish to better the world.

In short, horticulture is not only beneficial to the body, but to its surroundings.

Additionally, this keeps the social and cultural connection to the past alive. If not for the trial-and-error basis of the past, none would have the innovations existing today.

 

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