The Horticulture Innovation Partnership (HIP) ornamental and landscape strategy will aim to relaunch UK horticulture as the "natural health service" when it is unveiled in a matter of weeks.
The HIP strategy has been revised ahead of publication in October, after a delay to make the research agenda document match the Ornamental Industry Round Table Action Plan 2015-2020, a Government-industry partnership initiative that has identified 12 work areas to increase growth and competitiveness.
The document's authors hope the strategy will present a unified vision of the industry as a "natural health service" for the UK. The strategy splits research required into ornamental horticulture's role in four areas - health; tourism and community; the environment (flooding, biodiversity, ecosystems); and biosecurity - linking research requirements with existing Government policies.
Top of the list is a call for research into evidenced-based approaches to quantify the benefits of gardening and access to green spaces on mental and physical health, and turning theory into practice. A benefit of the research would be for the British Medical Association guidelines for doctors to routinely advise patients to take up gardening as part of healthy living and to reduce obesity and some types of mental health problems.
The strategy, which is aimed at the Government, research funders, research providers and stakeholder organisations, will ask for the support of ministers to embed the benefits of ornamental horticulture as part of policy delivery across Government departments and for the departments and research councils to use existing and new funding schemes imaginatively to help deliver the agenda.
Aims include increasing profitability, capitalising on the UK's reputation as the "gardening capital of the world", opening market opportunities and improving the technology base and skills within the sector.
It calls for research to identify what it is about planting that attracts visitors to gardens and green spaces and to identify; quantify and value the impacts of different types and amounts of plants/landscape on urban and rural ecosystem services; and optimise ornamental plant production and management to minimise the spread of pests and disease, including invasive species.