The Latin words hortus (garden plant) and cultura (culture) together form horticulture, classically defined as the culture or growing of garden plants. Horticulture is, however, much more. Horticulturists work in plant propagation, crop production, plant breeding and genetic engineering, plant biochemistry, plant physiology, and the storage, processing, and transportation of fruits, berries, nuts, vegetables, flowers, trees, shrubs, and turf. They improve crop yield, quality, nutritional value, and resistance to insects, diseases, and environmental stresses. Genetics is also used as a valuable tool in the development of plants that can synthesize chemicals for fighting disease (including cancers).
Horticulture involves five areas of study. These areas are floriculture (includes production and marketing of floral crops), landscape horticulture (includes production, marketing and maintenance of landscape plants), olericulture (includes production and marketing of vegetables), pomology (includes production and marketing of fruits), and postharvest physiology (involves maintaining quality and preventing spoilage of horticultural crops).
Horticulturists can work in industry, government, or educational institutions. They can be cropping systems engineers, wholesale or retail business managers, propagators and tissue culture specialists (fruit, vegetables, ornamentals, and turf), crop inspectors, crop production advisors, extension specialists, plant breeders, research scientists, and of course, teachers.
College courses that complement Horticulture are biology, botany, entomology, chemistry, mathematics, genetics, physiology, statistics, computer science, and communications. Plant science and horticulture courses include: plant materials, plant propagation, tissue culture, crop production, post-harvest handling, plant breeding, pollination management, crop nutrition, entomology, plant pathology, economics, and business. Some careers in horticultural science require a masters (MS) or doctoral (PhD) degree.