Horticulture vs Agriculture

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when we think about horticulture? And how is it different from agriculture? Most experts say that horticulture is a branch of agriculture. However, many people have a hard time grasping the differences between them. That’s why I have decided to write this post and shed some light on Horticulture vs Agriculture.

Horticulture vs Agriculture

Both horticulture and agriculture use very similar techniques for growing crops. However, horticulture involves growing crops on a much smaller scale. It mostly involves vegetablesfruits, nuts, flowers and other ornamental plants.

Generally, horticulture requires very specific techniques and equipment. It may also require controlled environmental conditions for optimizing plant growth. And greenhouses are often used for this purpose.

On the other hand, agriculture can be practiced with basic tools. Additionally, agriculture also deals with animal farming. And this is not the case with Horticulture. Its practiced on a much smaller scale with a good variety of crops. Whereas agriculture employs large fields with a few primary crops.

And this brings us to the next topic about Horticulture vs Agriculture. Let’s understand their origins.


Horticulture vs Agriculture Origins

The word Horticulture came from the Latin words, ‘Hortus’ meaning garden and ‘Cultura’ meaning cultivation. It literally means ‘Garden Cultivation’. Conversely, Agriculture comes from ‘Agri’ meaning field and ‘Cultura’ meaning cultivation. And there we have it, their origins speak of the difference in Horticulture vs Agriculture. And this tells us about the diversity of plants and smaller scale of cultivation in Horticulture.

Horticulture includes all types of garden management focusing on intensive commercial production. Hence, horticulture is more profitable than agriculture. Most people assume that horticulture involves plants with fruits, nuts, vegetables and flowers. But it is much more than that. Ornamental and landscaping plants like trees, shrubs, grasses and even herbs are part of Horticulture.

Horticulture vs Agriculture origins

Conversely, Agriculture involves cultivation of a few crops on a much larger scale. It usually focuses on producing a huge amount of a single crop. Unlike horticulture, it also includes livestock farming. And it usually involves very basic tools and equipment.

On the other hand, horticulture aims to maximize yield of various crops in a smaller space. Therefore, horticulturists usually have greenhouses and vertical gardens. They unlock the full potential of limited space. Technology and special equipment have a vital role in horticulture.

With this in mind, lets move on to our next topic in our Horticulture vs Agriculture dilemma.


Ancient bonds of Horticulture and Agriculture  

Horticulture and Agriculture evolved over time with trial and error. Technological advancement played a huge role in this evolution. But Agriculture has a longer history than Horticulture. Agriculture mostly deals with growing food crops and animal farming on a large scale. Whereas, Horticulture takes it a step further with some specific crops grown intensively on a smaller scale. Let’s try to understand this relation better.

Agriculture can be either conventional or sustainable. Conventional agriculture is suitable for growing a single crop like wheat or rice. And it involves altering the environment by adding trees, irrigation and soil tilling. Whereas, sustainable agriculture makes farming eco-friendly. It uses more sustainable crops that take advantage of regional environmental conditions. Moreover, this lets farmers plant a variety of crops.

On the contrary, Horticulture uses science and special methods to grow crops. These methods include plant propagation, breeding, soil conditioning, genetic engineering and biochemistry. Extensive research improves crop yield and nutritional value. Technological advancements in the field have made crops more resistant to pests and harsh climate.

Horticulture and Agriculture share an ancient bond dating back to the Neolithic age. They continued to evolve together on a trial and error basis. Our ancestors observed which plants would thrive under certain conditions. As a result, weeds were recognized and so were diseases and pests. And this helped them find their cures too. While some of them may sound absurd, cures included sacrificing animals and handpicking insects and pests from plants.

All the hard work was done either manually or with the help of animals. Women were mostly engaged in garden cultivation or Horticulture as we know it today. Whereas, the men engaged in Agriculture. To this day, women continue with this role in most countries.

But when did Horticulture begin? Let’s find out.


Where it all started

Most historians believe that Horticulture began in Egypt. Egyptian temple gardens featured fruits, grape vines and palms trees. Irrigation was a major innovation in horticulture found in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Nile flooded for a few months each year, and the water was diverted to the fields. This helped farmers to grow crops which would otherwise be difficult. The Egyptians also learned the art of growing herbs, spices and medicinal plants. More than 200 species of flowers were identified from tomb remains.

Horticulture was also popular in the Americas during the eras of South American civilizations. This included the Aztec, Maya and Inca empires. The Incas improved terrace cultivation and irrigation. And they grew a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

Mayans and horticulture

The Greek empire were influenced by horticultural concepts like the Persian gardens. And they documented writings on agriculture and horticulture. These writings quickly spread over the Mediterranean and influenced the Romans. Japan and China also had a huge contribution to horticulture. Eventually, horticulture made its way to Europe in the middle ages.

Horticulture originated when humans moved from nomadic hunter-gatherers to sedentary horticulture communities. These communities often had useful trees planted around them. And they mostly relied on the crops from these plants.


Difference in strategies

Strategies involved in cultivation influences the yield and quality of produce. Moreover, it affects the land and attracts biodiversity. That is why choosing the right strategy is vital for your crops and the environment. The best way to decide on your strategy is to list down all the suitable options. This way you can see the pros and cons of each option. But what’s the difference in horticulture and agriculture strategies?

Agriculture strategies include seeding, tilling, pruning, fertilizing, crop rotation, transplanting, selective harvesting and much more. The tools used for creating the cultivation habitat is where agriculture and horticulture differ. Horticulture uses similar strategies on a smaller scale.

machines revolutionized horticulture vs agriculture

Firstly, specializations in horticulture also vary vastly from that of agriculture. Practices like budding and grafting are popular in horticulture. Horticulture aims to have many varieties of crops for a small community. Whereas, agriculture aims to supply a single crop to a much larger population.

Secondly, horticulture features intercropping with many ecological advantages. As crops ripen with seasons, planting many crops saves space. Mixing crops eases pest and disease control and boosts nutrients in soil. While the environmental benefits are plenty, it also upgrades crop resistance to harsh climate. Besides, it improves yield even if you have a small space. It truly unlocks your crops’ full potential.

Lastly, horticulture relies on human labour and innovative technology. With this in mind, horticulture intensively produces profitable crops. And they usually involve greenhouses to enhance the cultivation environment. However, agriculture uses machinery and animal power for growing crops. But the basic principles like irrigation, fertilizing and pest control apply to both.


How horticulture became popular

Innovations in horticulture created a steady source of food for our ancestors. And with this stability, they started exploring the ornamental side of horticulture. Arboriculture was invented as a result of this curiosity. This aspect of horticulture deals with growing perennials like trees, shrubs and woody plants. For centuries, studies were done to find the best techniques and environmental conditions for plant growth.

As the years went by, ancient civilizations improved their skills of growing fruits and vegetables. And today, these branches are widely known as Pomology and Olericulture. The art of growing flowers was developed and soon became popular as Floriculture. Many similar activities involving ornamental and aesthetic plants are an integral part of landscape horticulture.

Check out my Branches of Horticulture article to know more about its various types.

Our brilliant forebears started a revolution that forever changed the destiny of humans from hunting to agriculture. All these skills soon became popular through ancient scriptures and tales. Horticulture techniques have seen massive shifts with time. From using basic tools to irrigation, propagation, drying and fermentation. We have seen it all.

But the past century had seen dramatic changes that transformed horticulture into a science. However, all these advances are based on the ancient techniques. And we should be very grateful for it.

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