Horticulture is the science of cultivating plants. It includes soil preparation as well as the planting of seeds or cuttings. Research involved in horticulture includes genetic engineering, plant breeding, biochemistry, physiology and plant reproduction. Horticulturists work with fruit, berries, nuts, vegetables, trees, flowers and even turf grass. While it is easy to see how horticulture could have many advantages, the science is not without its disadvantages.
The study of horticulture has led to crossbred species of plants that increase the nutritional value of the fruits or vegetables the plant yields. Once the scientist has identified strains of a specific plant, bush or tree that has a higher nutritional value than the others, they can isolate and cultivate it. Scientists can also crossbreed nutritional strains with other strains to produce other desirable traits. For example, they could cross a nutritional strain of tomatoes with a strain with improved flavour to breed tomatoes that taste great and have a higher nutritional value.
Many crops are lost to pests or inclement weather. Another advantage of horticulture is that strains of plants that are resistant to pests or weather stresses can be cultivated and grown. These strains could also be crossbred with other strains for improved flavour or nutrition, or faster growing times. Breeding plants with increased resistance to insects and other pests means less pesticides are used on the crops during growth.
Horticulture tends to involve smaller crops than agriculture because it is harder to control and maintain growing conditions on a larger scale. As a result, the crops yield less product than traditional agriculture crops. The ideal environment for a horticulture crop is an enclosed garden where the horticulturist can control all aspects of the growing, including soil content, water frequency and quality and pest control.
Reduced Soil Quality
While crops grown using horticultural methods are normally quite nutritious and grown in soil containing the right composition of nutrients, the soils used are quickly depleted of their nutrients. Usually horticulturists fertilise their fields using the slash and burn method. Nearby bushes and trees are cut down and allowed to dry out on the fields and then burnt. The ash from the organic material adds nutrients and minerals to the soil, acting as a fertiliser. Usually this is the only fertiliser used, which results in soil that is depleted in a few short years.