Horticulture is a science, as well as, an art of production, utilisation and improvement of horticultural crops, such as fruits and vegetables, spices and condiments, ornamental, plantation, medicinal and aromatic plants. Horticultural crops require intense care in planting, carrying out intercultural operations, manipulation of growth, harvesting, packaging, marketing, storage and processing. India is the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world after China. In India, about 55–60 per cent of the total population depends on agriculture and allied activities. Horticultural crops constitute a significant portion of the total agricultural produce in India. They cover a wide cultivation area and contribute about 28 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). These crops account for 37 per cent of the total exports of agricultural commodities from India.

What is horticulture?

The term horticulture is derived from two Latin words hortus, meaning ‘garden’, and cultura meaning ‘cultivation’. It refers to crops cultivated in an enclosure, i.e., garden cultivation.

Features and importance

Horticulture crops perform a vital role in the Indian economy by generating employment, providing raw material to various food processing industries, and higher farm profitability due to higher production and export earnings from foreign exchange.

(a) Horticulture crops are a source of variability in farm produce and diets.

(b) They are a source of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, flavour, aroma, dietary fibres, etc.

(c) They contain health benefiting compounds and medicines.

(d) These crops have aesthetic value and protect the environment.

(e) The comparative production per unit area of horticultural crops is higher than field crops, e.g., paddy crop gives a maximum yield of only 30 q/ha, while banana crop gives 300–450 q/ha and grapes 90–150 q/ha.

(f) Fruit and plantation crops can be cultivated in places where the slope of land is uneven or undulating. Mango and cashew nut are cultivated on a large scale in hilly and hill back area of the Konkan region.

(g) The crops are useful for cultivation in wasteland or poor quality soil.

(h) Such crops are of high value, labour intensive and generate employment throughout the year.

(i) Horticultural produce serves as raw material for various industries, such as processing, pharmaceutical, perfumery and cosmetics, chemical, confectionery, oils and paints, etc.

(j) They have national and international demand and are a good source of foreign exchange.


Employment opportunities in horticulture

The horticultural industry offers a variety of jobs, both directly and indirectly. Many jobs require knowledge and training in horticulture. The level of training could be vocational or at the college level. The nature of work may be indoor or outdoor. Intense manual labour or paperwork in office may be involved. The following are the identified categories of jobs that require varying degrees of familiarity with horticulture:

Nursery operation

(a) Nursery manager (coordinates the entire nursery operations)

(b) Propagator (develops quality planting material)

(c) Field supervisor (supervises and plans fieldwork)

(d) Plant technician (advises and provides guidance on plant care)

(e) Salesperson (works on the promotion and sale of plant material)

Turf grass operation

(a) Landscape technician (establishes and maintains landscape)

(b) Golf course architect (designs a golf course)

(c) Golf course superintendent (supervises the construction and maintenance of the golf course)

Crop production

(a) Farm manager (manages the horticulture farm)

(b) Crop grower (produces vegetables, fruits and flowers).

Florist operation

(a) Floral designer (creatively arranges flowers)

(b) Store manager (manages and supervises the store of the farm)

(c) Plant rental supervisor (manages plants and pots, and does floral arrangements on rent).


(a) Teacher/trainer (teaches horticulture in formal or informal system)

(b) Researcher (conducts research to develop new products and varieties)

(c) Extension person (disperses innovative techniques and methods among people).

Industrial operation

The horticultural industry has spawned a number of supporting or service industries, including the following:

Developer or producer


The horticulture industry depends on a variety of chemicals, including fertilisers, pesticides and growth hormones. These chemicals are called agro-chemicals.

Farm machinery

Machinery, tools and implements are required for preparing the land, planting, cultivation, spray, harvest, store and packaging. Engineers design and construct the tools and machinery required for extensive and intensive production of horticultural plants. Home garden versions of some of these machineries and equipment are also available.


Horticultural products need to be transported from the areas of production to nearby and distant markets, and ultimately, to consumers. Because of their highly perishable nature and in order to retain their quality for a long duration, horticultural products require special care and handling in transportation. It requires special personnel to look after this aspect.

Horticultural branches and operations

Horticulture is perhaps the most important branch of agriculture. It is further divided into four different branches as discussed below:


The term is derived from Latin words poma and logus. Poma means ‘fruit’ and logus means ‘study, knowledge or discourse’. It can be defined as a branch of horticulture, which deals with the scientific study of fruit crops.


The term is derived from Latin words olerus meaning ‘vegetables’ and cultura meaning ‘cultivation’. It can be defined as a branch of horticulture, which deals with the scientific study of vegetable crops.


The term floriculture is derived from Latin words florus and cultura. Florus means ‘flower’ and cultura means ‘cultivation’. It can be defined as a branch of horticulture, which deals with the scientific study of flowering and ornamental crops. Landscaping is the art of beautifying a piece of land using garden designs, methods and plant material. Professionals who do landscaping are called ‘landscape architects’.

Post-harvest technology

It is a branch of horticulture, which deals with the principles and practices of handling, packaging and processing of harvested crops to increase their storage life and availability. Vegetable crops are different from fruit crops. Some important differences between them are given in Table below:

Classification of vegetable crops

If the growing of each vegetable is dealt with in detail, it will lead to too much repetition. It is, therefore, desirable to classify vegetable crops into certain groups as per their similarities (Fig. 1.5). This will also help in studying them easily.

Based on the nature of plant (stem)

(a) Herbaceous and succulents: Leafy vegetables

(b) Shrubs: Brinjal, chilli, tomato, etc.

(c) Trees: Drumstick, jackfruit, etc.

(d) Vines: Cucurbits, etc.

Based on the life span (from seed-to-seed)

(a) Annuals: The life span of annual plants or annuals is a season or a year, e.g., brinjal, chilli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucurbits, tomato, leafy vegetables, etc.

(b) Biennials: The life span of biennials is of two seasons or two years, e.g. onion, radish, carrot, etc.

(c) Perennials: The life span of perennial plants is more than two years, e.g., drumstick (moringa), asparagus (shatawari), pointed gourd (parwal), etc.

Based on the method of commercial propagation        

(a) Sexually propagated (by seed): Brinjal, chilli, cauliflower, cabbage, cucurbits, tomato, leafy vegetables, etc.

(b) Asexually propagated (vegetative parts): Asparagus, dioscorea, potato, sweet potato, onion, garlic, taro, yam, etc.

  • Cuttings: Asparagus
  • Bulbs: Onion, garlic
  • Rhizomes: Colocasia, ginger, coleus
  • Tubers: Potato, sweet potato

Based on the method of planting

(a) Directly sown plants: Okra, leafy vegetables, carrot, radish, peas and beans

(b) Transplanting: Tomato, brinjal, chilli, cauliflower, cabbage, onion, potato, sweet potato, cassava, pointed gourd, etc.

(c) Crops grown from underground parts

  • Root vegetables: Radish, carrot, turnip, beetroot
  • Rhizome: Colocasia, ginger
  • Bulb: Onion, garlic
  • Tuber: Potato, sweet potato, cassava and yam

Based on intercultural practices

(a) Solanaceous crops: Tomato, brinjal, chilli, bell pepper, potato

(b) Cole crops: Cabbage, cauliflower, knol-khol, broccoli and Brussels sprouts

(c) Leafy vegetables: Spinach, methi, lettuce and chaulai (amaranthus)

(d) Pods or capsules: Pea, cowpea, cluster bean, okra

(e) Cucurbits: Gourds, melons, cucumber, pumpkin

(f) Root crops: Carrot, radish, turnip, beetroot

Based on climatic requirements

(a) Temperate vegetables: Radish, potato, carrot, cabbage, cauliflower, knol-khol, broccoli, etc.

(b) Tropical and subtropical vegetables: Watermelon, musk melon, cucumber, tomato, brinjal, chilli, etc.

Based on the season of growth

In India for instance, seasonal or annual vegetables can be classified according to their season of growth. Season of growth is the period in which the climatic conditions are favourable for the growth and production of a crop.

(a) Kharif season vegetables: These may also be called rainy season crops. These vegetables require hot and humid climate. The season tentatively starts from 7 June and lasts till 6 October every year. The sowing of seeds may be undertaken from mid-May to late July. Vegetables, like okra, cowpeas, cluster beans, etc., are examples of Kharif vegetables.

(b) Rabi or cool season vegetables: These may also be called cool or winter season crops as these vegetables require low temperature for growth. The season tentatively starts from 7 October and lasts till 6 February. The sowing of seeds may be undertaken from mid-September to late October. Vegetables, like peas, radish, carrot, cauliflower, cabbage, knol-khol, leafy vegetables, etc., are examples of Rabi vegetables.

(c) Summer or warm season vegetables: The season tentatively starts from 7 February and lasts till 6 June. The sowing of seeds may be undertaken from mid-January to late February. These crops require hot and dry climatic conditions for better growth and maximum production. Cluster bean, musk melon, cucumber, watermelon, etc., are summer season vegetables.

Based on plant part used as vegetable

(a) Stem and leaves: Cabbage, lettuce, spinach, methi, coriander, amaranthus, etc.

(b) Flowers: Broccoli (head ‘flower buds’), cauliflower (curd ‘pre-floral stage’), etc.

(c) Fruits: There are various stages where the fruits of vegetable crops can be harvested for consumption, such as:

  • Ripened fruits: Watermelon, musk melon, tomato, etc.
  • Immature and tender fruits: Cucumber, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, ridge gourd, okra, brinjal, green chilli, cowpea, French beans, dolichos beans, etc.

(d) Seeds: Peas, etc.

(e) Underground parts of plant

  • Taproot: Tapering root growing vertically downward, e.g., carrot, radish, etc.
  • Bulb: A fleshy leaved storage organ in some vegetables sending adventitious roots downward and leaves upward, e.g., onion, garlic, etc.
  • Tuber: Thick, short and rounded underground stem with modified nodes and buds, e.g., potato, sweet potato, etc.
  • Rhizome: Underground root-like stem having roots and shoots, e.g., colocasia, ginger, etc.


Important horticultural operations


When a plant is made to grow with or without support, in a desired fashion by removing or fastening some of its parts with a view to give it a better framework or shape, the operation is called ‘training’.

System of training

There are three systems of training in fruit trees:

Central leader system:

In this system, the main stem of a tree is allowed to grow straight from the ground level to the top, which is called the central axis of the tree. The smaller side branches grow from this central axis in various directions. Such a tree grows tall and bear fruits mostly near the top. The lower branches, gradually, become less vigorous and bear less fruits.

Open centre system

In this system, the main stem of a tree is allowed to grow up to a desired height and the top is headed to induce lateral branches, resulting in a low-headed and open at the centre tree. In this system, the sunlight reaches all branches and the crop is borne closer to the ground. It facilitates harvesting and thinning of fruits, as well as, plant protection operations.

Modified leader system

This system is the modification of the central leader system and the open centre system (Fig. 1.8). The main stem grows for a few years, and after some time, lateral branches are induced to grow, which are widely spaced and spread on all sides not as in the open centre system. Thus, the tree is fairly strong and moderately spread, allowing easy orchard management operations.


Precautions taken during the training of fruit trees

  • First, remove the branches arising from the main or scaffold limbs after maintaining only one vigorous branch, which is developed at a wider angle.
  • Remove the branches turning towards the central axis from their bases.
  • Remove suckers, which arise from the roots or underground parts of the stem or are very close to the crown. This is commonly observed in guava and pomegranate trees.
  • Remove certain loop side growth to maintain the balance and framework of the tree.


Judicious removal of any part of a plant to divert sap towards its producing areas, leading to an improvement in the quality of yield is called ‘pruning’. It is done during the later stage of plant life when it becomes ready to produce flowers and fruits. Decayed parts can also be pruned off.

Objectives of pruning

  • to maintain flowering and fruiting balance
  • to obtain regular bearing in fruits
  • to remove pest-infected branches
  • to ensure adequate sunlight for plant growth
  • to maintain a balance between vegetative and reproductive growth stages

Types of pruning

Thinning out

When a shoot or a branch is removed entirely without leaving any stub is called ‘thinning out’.

Heading back

When the terminal portion of a branch or a shoot is removed partially, leaving the basal portion intact, it is called ‘heading back’.

Extent of pruning

If a small portion of a terminal of a branch or shoot is removed, it is called ‘light pruning’. When a longer terminal portion is removed, it is called ‘medium pruning’, and depending upon its severity, it can be described as ‘heavy pruning’.


Staking in tomato crop

Staking is a practice of supporting tomato plants, especially of indeterminate type, to keep the plants and fruits off ground.

Advantages of staking

  • It provides support to a plant.
  • It keeps fruits above the ground and helps in maintaining the health of the plant.
  • There are lesser chances of plants getting infested with pests and diseases.
  • It facilitates spraying and dusting of pesticides and fungicides.

Practices for inducing flowering


In this operation, erect growing branches of guava trees are bent towards the ground without breaking them.


A small notch of bark, particularly, just above the bud is removed to accumulate nitrogen and induce vegetative growth from the bud. The branches are notched below the bud to accumulate carbohydrate and induce an individual bud to turn into a fruitful one. This practice is followed on a large scale in fig plants.

Topping and pinching

It includes the removal of succulent terminal shoots or just pinching of the last small terminal portion of a shoot. It is practised in fruit plants or vines, which throw shoots that are fast growing, thus, diverting the sap flow to the terminal ends.

Bahar treatment

Some fruiting plants have vegetative and reproductive growth 3–4 times a year. This behaviour of plants in an orchard is not desirable. One good crop at a required time is more desirable for decent economic returns. Fruits developing and maturing at one time facilitate orchard fertilisation, irrigation, harvesting and other such operations.


It is an agronomical practice, in which seedlings are moved and planted in growing places. In solanaceous crops, seedlings are ready after 4–5 weeks of sowing or when they attain the 4–5 leaf stage. Seedlings should be hardened (it is a process of withholding watering for 4–5 days to reduce the moisture content and develop a water stress condition) before transplanting them. Solanaceous crop seedlings are transplanted on one side of the ridge bed or in flat beds, depending upon the crops or the facilities a grower can provide.


Learning metric:

Now, I am able to:

  • understand what is horticulture and its importance.
  • understand the present status and prospects of horticulture in the country.
  • know about nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.
  • differentiate between the different branches of horticulture.
  • explain the classification of vegetable crops.
  • understand the growing regions of horticultural crops.
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