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horticulture [Lat. hortus=garden], science and art of gardening and of cultivating fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants. Horticulture generally refers to small-scale gardening, and agriculture to the growing of field crops, usually on a large scale, although the distinction is not always precise (for example, market gardening could be classed either way). A horticultural variety of a plant is one produced under cultivation, as distinguished from the botanical species or varieties, which occur in nature. Although many horticultural practices are very ancient (see botany), comparatively recent knowledge of genetics, plant physiology, biochemistry, ecology, plant pathology, entomology, molecular biology, and soils, and the systematic application of such knowledge to practical use (e.g., in plant breeding), has expanded horticulture into an extremely complex science. Agencies such as the various bureaus of the Dept. of Agriculture, the state experimental stations, and the many agricultural colleges; organizations such as the American Horticultural Society and the various state horticultural societies and local granges and garden clubs; and the commercial flower-growing and experimental nurseries (see nursery)—all engage in developing, analyzing, systematizing, and disseminating improved horticultural practices for the benefit of both amateur and professional gardeners. See also garden.


See E. P. Christopher, Introductory Horticulture (1958); J. B. Edmond et al., Fundamentals of Horticulture (3d ed. 1964); T. H. Everett, The New York Botanical Garden Illustrated Encyclopedia of Horticulture (10 vol., 1980–82).

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a form of food cultivation which is effected by the use of hand tools, including digging-sticks or hoes. As such, horticulture is generally designated in anthropology as being less technologically developed than AGRICULTURE, in which ploughs and draft animals are employed (see Lenski and Lenski, 1970).
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) One of the principal branches of agriculture, involved mainly in the raising of cultivated plants. This branch of agriculture supplies food products to man, feed to animals, and many raw materials of plant origin to numerous industries (food, mixed-feed, textile, pharmaceutical, and perfume industries). Horticulture is closely associated with animal husbandry. It includes vegetable growing, fruit growing, viticulture, meadow management, forestry, and floriculture.

(2) The science of raising cultivated plants in order to obtain high yields of the finest quality with the least expenditure of labor and materials. Horticulture is part of the complex of agronomical sciences. It is closely associated with soil science, general agriculture, plant selection, agricultural meteorology, plant physiology, plant biochemistry, plant genetics, agricultural microbiology, agricultural physics, and agricultural chemistry.

The principal object of study in horticulture is the agricultural plant (species, variety, strain, hybrid), particularly its biology and its demands on the environment (ecological conditions). Of the approximately 1,000 plant species (not counting ornamentals and medicinal plants) cultivated throughout the world, about 400 species (5,000 varieties and hybrids) are raised in the USSR. The biological characteristics of plants studied by horticulturists include the length of the growing season; the rates of growth and development; the successive phases of growth and morphogenesis, the dynamics of the development of the root system and assimilating surface, the accumulation of dry matter, and the formation of economically valuable organs; metabolism; water and feeding regimes; winter-hardiness; frost and drought resistance; and salt tolerance.

The ecological characteristics of crops are studied to determine the relationship between crops and environmental conditions. The climatic and soil conditions prevailing in a given agricultural region are evaluated before cultivation. Analysis of the biological and ecological characteristics of crops and analysis of soil, climatic, and production conditions in agricultural regions are essential both for the zoning of plant species, varieties, and hybrids (based on data of the State Committee for Strain Testing of Crops and results of field tests) and for the development of an efficient technology for growing crops.

The technology for raising crops includes the selection of a variety (hybrids) possessing the biological and economic properties most valuable under local soil and climatic conditions, selection of the best precursors in a crop rotation, soil cultivation and fertilization, preparation of seeds for planting, planting (times, rate of seeding, depth of seed placement, method), management of young crops (soil cultivation, topdressing, destruction of weeds, pest and disease control), and harvesting. The technology used for growing crops should be suited to the soil and climatic conditions of the given agricultural region, farm, and crop-rotation field; to the biological characteristics of the crop, variety, or strain to be grown; and to production resources of the kolkhoz or sovkhoz. Field, greenhouse, and laboratory methods are used in horticultural research.

The main tasks of horticulture include the development and perfection of the technology for growing intensive varieties, that is, those that make the most productive use of soil fertility; that are responsive to large quantities of fertilizers and irrigation; that are resistant to lodging, pests, and diseases; that are adapted to mechanical cultivation; and that possess high production qualities. In addition, horticulturalists study plant resistance to drought, low and high temperatures, and soil salinity. Also studied are the development and application of integrated systems for protecting plants against diseases and pests, and the creation of highly efficient forms of fertilizers. There is continued study of the physiological, biochemical, and genetic bases of immunity. Horticulturalists are also concerned with the improvement of methods of programming high yields and the development of highly mechanized methods of cultivating crops.

History. The history of horticulture is closely associated with the development of the natural sciences, agriculture, and agronomy. The earliest written records of farming can be considered the rudiments of the science of horticulture. In ancient Rome such records included On Agriculture by Cato the Elder (234–149 B.C.), On Agriculture, in three books, by Varro (116–27 B.C.), Natural History, in 37 books, by Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23–79), and On Agriculture, in 12 books, by Columella (first century). The need to differentiate agricultural technology in relation to natural conditions and plant characteristics was emphasized for the first time in these works.

In the medieval period of feudalism there was universal stagnation in the development of the natural and agricultural sciences. However, the rise of capitalism and the rapidly growing needs of the urban population for food and of industry for raw materials created favorable conditions for the development of these sciences, including horticulture. The Swiss botanist J. Sénebier, the French scientist J. Boussingault, the German chemist J. von Liebig, and the German agricultural chemist H. Hellriegel established the theoretical basis of plant nutrition and laid the scientific foundations of horticulture. Of importance in plant breeding were the Bohemian naturalist G. Mendel (the founder of genetics), the French Vilmorin family, and the American breeder and Darwinist L. Burbank.

In Russia, developments in horticulture were associated with the work of M. V. Lomonosov, I. M. Komov, A. T. Bolotov, A. V. Sovetov, A. N. Engel’gardt, D. I. Mendeleev, I. A. Stebut, V. V. Dokuchaev, P. A. Kostychev, and many other scientists. I. A. Stebut held the first university chair of horticulture and was the author of the first textbook on the subject. In Soviet times, K. A. Timiriazev continued horticultural research. D. N. Prianishnikov greatly enlarged the scientific scope of horticulture, and his work contributed much to theories of plant nutrition and the use of chemicals in agriculture. Prianishnikov’s Theory of Fertilizers and Crop Production have been reprinted many times and have played a major role in the training of many Russian and foreign agronomists. N. I. Vavilov wrote outstanding books on the introduction of crops and gathered a collection of the cultivated plants of the world.

In the USSR. The rapid intensification of agricultural production in the USSR has created favorable conditions for horticultural research and for the introduction of advanced agricultural technology. Scientific data and the experience gained by advanced farming techniques were the basis of recommendations regarding the introduction of certain crop rotations for specific soil and climatic conditions and for specific crops. They also served to evaluate the effectiveness of fertilizers and to determine the optimum quantities, methods, and rate for adding the fertilizers to various crops and varieties in the principal soil and climatic zones of the country. Mixed fertilizers containing the optimum quantities of nutrients for different crops and varieties have also been developed.

Many new and improved varieties of grain crops were created under the direction of the scientists-breeders P. P. Luk’ianenko, V. N. Remeslo, F. G. Kirichenko, and V. N. Mamontova. Hybrid wheats were bred by crossing wheat with couch grass (N. V. Tsitsin) and rye with wheat (V. E. Pisarev). Also developed were corn hybrids rich in lysine (M. I. Khadzhinov, G. S. Galeev, B. P. Sokolov), barley varieties (P. F. Garkavyi), monospermous sugar beet varieties and polyhybrids, and wilt-resistant cotton varieties.

Potato breeders have introduced agrotechnical methods that increase the starch content of potatoes, and high-yield potato varieties developed by A. G. Lorkh, I. A. Veselovskii, and N. 1. Al’smik are widely grown. Vegetable growers have bred new intervarietal cucumber, onion, and cabbage hybrids. Vegetables have been bred for the Far North, for deserts and semideserts, and for hotbeds and greenhouses. Using modern techniques, horticulturists have bred many valuable varieties of fruits, berries, and grapes for the different natural regions of the USSR.

The research initiated by Vavilov on plant immunity to diseases and pests is being successfully continued (M. S. Dunin). Scientists have bred sunflower varieties resistant to moths and broomrape (V. S. Pustovoit), potato varieties resistant to Phytophthora and canker, and fiber-flax varieties resistant to rust. Besides the breeding of intensive crops, much attention is paid to the development of cropping methods that contribute to the fuller realization of the potentialities of new varieties and to the maximum use of soil fertility.

Scientific institutions and publications. Various agricultural institutions and institutions of higher learning do work in horticulture. Many institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the academies of sciences of the Union republics, the Ministry of the Food Industry, the State Forestry Committee, the State Procurement Committee, the Ministry of Health of the USSR, the Ministry of the Chemical Industry of the USSR, and the Ministry of Land Reclamation and Water Use Management also conduct horticultural research. Crop-testing stations evaluate new varieties and devise new testing methods. The most important institution for the study of plant growing in the USSR is the N. I. Vavilov All-Union Institute of Horticulture. The Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences is responsible for the general coordination of scientific methods and research in horticulture. Research is also conducted by the Botanical Society, the Society of Soil Scientists, the Entomological Society, the N. I. Vavilov Society of Geneticists and Breeders, and the Society for the Conservation of Nature. Scientific and technical information organized by the All-Union Research Institute of Information and Technical and Economic Research on Agriculture is vital to the development of horticulture.

Scientific and practical studies in horticulture are published in the periodicals Zemledelie (Agriculture, since 1939), Vestnik sel’skokhoziaistvennoi nauki (Bulletin of Agriculture, since 1956), Khimiia v sel’skom khoziaistve (Chemistry in Agriculture, since 1963), Agrokhimiia (Agrochemistry, since 1964), Sel’skokhoziaistvennaia biologiia (Agricultural Biology, since 1966), Sel’skoe khoziaistvo za rubezhom—Rastenievodstvo (Foreign Agriculture—Horticulture, since 1955), and Mezhdunarodnyi sel’skokhoziaistvennyi zhurnal (International Journal of Agriculture, since 1957). The transactions of research institutes, experiment stations, and institutions of higher learning also deal with the subject.

Soviet horticulturalists are active in many international organizations and societies. The USSR is a member of the European Association for Research on Plant Breeding, the International Seed Testing Association, and the European Organization for Plant Protection. Symposia and scientific methods conferences deal with many aspects of horticulture.

Outside the USSR. One of the greatest achievements of horticulturalists outside the USSR is the breeding of dwarf varieties of winter wheat (Mexico, India, United States, Pakistan) and rice (Japan). The plants, which have a strong short stem and a large ear (inflorescence), are high yielding when irrigated and treated with large quantities of mineral fertilizers.

Much attention is paid to theoretical studies on the creation of high and stable yields, specifically, on ways of increasing the photosynthetic productivity of crops. Genetic methods of breeding varieties resistant to high soil acidity and salinity and to drought are being developed in Canada. Also under study are methods of regulating growth, development, and fruit formation in plants by means of physiologically active substances (United States, Britain, Federal Republic of Germany, Japan). Horticulturalists are investigating the use of additional irrigation in zones with adequate moisture and the multipurpose use of sprinkler systems for applying fertilizers and chemicals to protect plants and to lower high ambient temperatures (German Democratic Republic, Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Scandinavian countries, France). The determination of the minimal amount of soil cultivation and protection against erosion is the goal of many horticulturalists, as is a means of increasing the productivity of natural and cultivated pastures.

The leading foreign institutions concerned with horticulture are the Center for Agronomical Research (Versailles, France), the Agricultural Institute of Canada (Ottawa), the Agricultural Research Center (Braunschweig-Völkenrode, Federal Republic of Germany), the National Institute of Agricultural Sciences (Tokyo), the Agricultural Institute (Novi Sad, Yugoslavia), the Institute of Viticulture and the Wine and Brewery Industry (Pleven, Bulgaria), the Institute of Wheat and Sunflower Crops (Tolbukhin, Bulgaria), and the Institute of Agriculture and Plant Growing (Müncheberg, German Democratic Republic).

Scientific articles on horticulture are published in Royal Horticultural Society Journal (London, since 1810), Journal of Agricultural Science (Cambridge, since 1905), and Crop Science (Madison, since 1961).


Timiriazev, K. A. Zemledelie i fiziologiia raslenii: Izbr. soch., vol. 1. Moscow, 1957.
Prianishnikov, D. N. Chastnoe zemledelie. 8th ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931.
Zhukovskii, P. M. Kul’turnye rasteniia i ikh sorodichi, 3rd ed. Leningrad, 1971.
Kornilov, A. A. Biologicheskie osnovy vysokikh urozhaev zernovykh kul’tur. Moscow, 1968.
Rastenievodstvo, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


The art and science of growing plants.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


the art or science of cultivating gardens
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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