Why Horticulture?

Tomato trellises in Beijing, China

Horticulture is the art and science of cultivating fruits, vegetables, flowers, ornamental plants, herbs and spices, and many other plants used directly by humans. It is among the most ancient practices of all human cultures and among the most necessary in modern times. Horticulture is essential, not only for our continued sustenance, but for our continued well being. Horticulture today incorporates many modern technologies and combines them with techniques that have been in use since antiquity. Horticulture’s practitioners include an incredibly wide array of people who garden, farm, manage and use landscapes, and enjoy the fruits of horticultural plants. The need for horticulture professionals continues to be strong. As our landscapes continue to develop and the need for sustainable landscape systems continues to grow, horticulture’s importance will grow with them.

Horticulture shares many features in common with Agronomy and other agricultural sciences, as well as with botany. Horticulture tends to differ from these fields through its (1) focus on plants used and experienced very directly by people, often prior to extensive processing; (2) its combination of applied and basic approaches to understanding and managing plant cultivation;  and (3) its scope of plant materials including fruits, flowers, vegetables, and ornamental plants.

Horticulture is promoted in the US by many organizations, including the American Society for Horticulture Science (www.ashs.org) and the American Horticultural Society (www.ahs.org) and throughout the world by the International Society for Horticultural Science (www.ishs.org). Horticultural science has been an academic subject for many centuries, and has had a home as an academic department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 1889.