Rather than staple crops, horticulture focuses on high-value crops. In this article, we will discuss all there is to know about Horticulture Crops. And what makes them different from staple crops.
Horticulture is the art of growing high-value crops and ornamental plants in a sustainable way. Moreover, it is much more intensive than growing regular staple crops. And this maximizes the yield per square foot.
Notably, Horticulture crops are very diverse. From fruits and vegetables, annuals and perennials to landscape and ornamental plants. These specialty crops enrich us with highly nutritious food. Besides, they also enhance the beauty of our homes and the environment.
Horticulture crops improve quality of life in the most practical way. And this helps reduce our carbon footprint by being eco-friendly. Moreover, growing and taking care of plants has amazing health benefits.
Horticulture professionals work with a wide array of crops. And this demands for unique skills and equipment for growing them. That’s exactly why the industry involves people practicing various specialties.
But, how exactly did we discover Horticulture crops?
Origins of Horticulture crops
The origins of horticulture crops lie in horticultural communities. Which had evolved from nomadic hunter-gatherers. They grew a variety of crops on a small scale around their land.
Communities often planted useful trees around them. Generally, they planted a collection of fruit trees along with ground crops.
Most historians believe that Horticulture began in Egypt. Egyptian gardens featured fruits, grape vines and palms trees. The Egyptians also mastered the art of growing herbs and medicinal plants.
Meanwhile, communities in North America grew maize, sunflower and squash. While the Mayans grew trees like avocado, cacao and papaya in forests. Other popular communities included the Aztec and Inca empires.
The Greeks had picked up on these skills and documented them. And soon, it became popular throughout the Mediterranean and Europe. Besides, Japan and other Asian countries also played a huge role in horticulture.
Horticulture Crops and Health Benefits
Horticulture crops are a great source of nutrition. Essentially, they enrich your diet with proteins, carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals. In addition, horticulture crops have high water content and antioxidants.
Fruits and vegetables make an excellent snack between meals. Especially since they are low in calories and fat and have zero cholesterol. Moreover, its fibre-rich nature makes it good for digestion. Besides, their small size adds to the convenience.
You could get most fruits and vegetables all year-round. With a wide variety of tastes, colour, textures and flavours. They can be eaten fresh, cooked, canned, pickled, dried or frozen. Indeed, they are probably one of the most versatile foods.
Naturally, fruits and vegetables are high in potassium and low in sodium. Additionally, they enhance mineral circulation in your body. Especially due to the ascorbic acid found in fruits and vegetables.
Thanks to these qualities, they have a huge role in a healthy diet. Research shows that it reduces risk of diseases by promoting health and delaying age-related disorders. That being said, the basic dietary need is at least 5 servings a day.
In fact, the nutritional value depends on the fruits and vegetables chosen. This shows a wide range of variation based on species. Even more, they are an excellent source of metabolites. However, its best to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Because, this increases your nutritional variation.
Resistance to Stresses
Horticulture crops are often prone to attack by pests and parasites called biotic stresses. Whereas, abiotic stresses affect the structural elements of horticulture crops. However, abiotic stresses may make crops less prone to pest attack.
It’s very important to understand the interaction among various stress aspects. Because horticulture crops are often exposed to both biotic and abiotic stresses.
More importantly, the focus should be on quality of horticulture crops instead of quantity. Especially for arable crops like soybean, whose quality depends on stresses.
Notably, the biochemical changes in fruits is a response to pathogen attack. This is an interesting aspect of stress interactions by accumulating defence proteins. But these changes may cause allergies to us.
How climate affects Horticulture Crops
Horticulture crops are grown all over the world in various climates. The diversity ranges from the tropical and subtropical to the temperate regions.
Moreover, the nature of horticulture crops hinders the ability to transport them over long distances. Since they need to be stored in a cool, dry place.
Hence, most of the horticulture crops are grown near the major cities. Generally, such crops are grown by professionals in greenhouses, family owned farms or in gardens. Vertical and container gardening have seen rising interest due to space limitations in cities.
However, due to climate change, farmers must cope with the rising heat, colder winters and extreme weather. Another important factor is the variation in water availability.
Horticulture demands special equipment and setups. This makes it a huge investment compared to agriculture. That’s why its crucial to select the right region for growing horticulture crops. Some regions benefit from climate changes. Whereas, places with hotter climates are risky for growing horticulture crops.
Harvesting Horticulture crops
Horticulture crops need special care during and after harvest. This helps reduce damage to perishable crops. Different fruits and vegetables have different care needs. For instance, apples, melons, pears and pumpkins don’t need as much care as cherries, grapes, figs, apricots and berries.
Generally, horticulture crops are harvested manually due to their delicate nature. This is usually done by hand or with shears or clippers.
Fruits like apples, peaches and pears are harvested by hand. Because, an abscission layer is formed in them. On the other hand, grapes, pomegranates and citrus fruits don’t develop such layers and are harvested with clippers.
More importantly, special methods and care is taken to maintain quality of harvest. Wounding and injuries may attract pathogens that cause decay of crops.
Ideally, harvesting is done early morning in low temperatures. It keeps the crops cool postharvest. Any kind of mechanical damage like scratches or bruises on fruit affect quality. And it may lead to reduced market value and profits.
That’s exactly why pickers wear thick gloves and harvest crops manually. Above all, farmers ensure that harvest clippers, bags, crates, boxes and equipment are clean before harvest.
Preventing Moisture loss of Horticulture Crops
Cellular respiration often continues after horticulture crops are harvested. Generally, the crops are considered as living organisms that respirate. As a result, heat is produced by conversion of sugars into water and carbon dioxide. And this affects the crop’s quality.
To control that from happening, the temperature should be reduced. Usually, horticulture crops have a high water content. Hence, it’s vital to stop water loss to preserve quality and mass. Otherwise, it may lead to poor quality appearance which affects the crop value.
So, how to prevent water loss from Horticulture crops?
Water loss is reduced with packaging or waxing fruit. In addition, careful handling of crops avoids damage. Generally, waxed produce is labelled for consumer awareness.
Most people think that leaving fruits and vegetables in the fridge stops water loss. Although this is true, it may not work if you leave them uncovered. So, be sure to keep them in any kind of packing.
Another way is to store them in a humid environment to stop water loss. Or storing them in water. But this method has its downsides. Consequently, such conditions may invite fungal or bacterial growth which reduces shelf-life.
Moreover, temperature variations during postharvest can cause condensation on fruit surface. And this may have similar effects. The added water should be clean to avoid such bacterial growth.
Extended water loss causes wilting and shrivelling. Whereas, reducing water loss improves produce quality, taste, shelf life and appearance. More importantly, it boosts the crop value and profits.
Postharvest changes in Horticulture crops
Whether we use plants for food or aesthetic purposes, the postharvest aspects are hard to avoid. In other words, the loss of quality and quantity between crop harvest and consumption is certain.
However, understanding environmental and biological aspects can help reduce loss. After harvesting, the living tissues of horticulture crops are subject to regular changes. Some are desirable, while most are not. Moreover, fresh harvests have high water content. Which makes them more likely to lose moisture and be physical injured.
Although these changes can’t be stopped, they can be slowed down. In fact, the preservation and upkeep of horticulture crops is very crucial. That being said, post-harvest handling is definitely the most important phase.
Shelf life of horticulture crops is often prolonged by altering natural conditions. Each kind of horticulture crop has different needs during postharvest phase. They are exposed to various abiotic stresses. And they often trigger a series of molecular and biochemical changes.
Hence, controlling these stresses is vital for a better quality and shelf life during postharvest handling.
Technological Advancements in Horticulture
Horticultural crops are a vital part of the diverse ecology all over the world. Moreover, the yield per square foot of Horticulture crops is much higher than field crops.
Notably, Asia is by far the largest producer of horticulture crops. With more than half of the world’s production and the widest variety of horticulture crops.
The ever-increasing demand for horticulture crops all over the world is met by technology. Biotechnology and Bioprocessing are some of the popular methods to process them. Needless to say, they ensure that the product is of high quality and longer shelf-life.
While processing horticulture crops, they go through a large number of steps. For instance, fruits go through washing, cleaning, blanching, drying or cooking. And all the processing adds value to fruits and vegetables.
On the other hand, Biotechnology applies to food processing using microbial flora. They act as inoculants that enhance nutritional value, aroma, taste, texture and shelf-life. Historically, we have used biological processes for more than 6,000 years to make food products like bread.
In recent years, the demand for nutritious and healthy food has led to innovative nonthermal technologies. Some of them include:
- Membrane technology is also an alternative processing method for the commercial production of concentrated and nutritious fruit juices
- Sonication to treat food products at different intensities and frequencies for a suitable time
- Pulsed electric field is a good way to pasteurize foods. Heat-sensitive foods are preserved using short electric pulses
- Alcoholic fermentation is used for commercial production of fruit or vegetable beverages in which alcohol content is good. Yeast is often used for fermentation of fruit juices
- Pressure treatment is another way. Low pressure is generally applied to fresh produce. Whereas, high pressure is necessary for processed foods
We saw the amazing health benefits of Horticulture crops. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent snack between meals. Especially since they are low in calories and fat and have zero cholesterol. Moreover, they enrich your diet with proteins, carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Besides, we discussed the various factors that affect horticulture crops. And how to prolong it from damaging crops. More importantly, the crops need extra care during and after harvest.
Finally, we saw the technological advancements in horticulture.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Make sure to subscribe to my blog and share this article with your friends and family.