Dixon on ... why horticulture needs chemistry

This is the Year of Chemistry, an international celebration of achievements responsible for improving all our lives. What does this mean for horticulture?

Horticulture is like the control plant, either for the benefit of our surroundings or for our health and welfare. Hundreds of chemical reactions happen every moment in plants as they grow and respond to their environment - often environments we have designed. Slowly we are learning to appreciate the complexity of relationships between plants and these environments. An invasion of pests, for example, triggers a release of chemical messengers that are warning signals to neighbouring plants.

Some horticulturists seem chemistry-averse, not admitting its role in all aspects of plant life. Yet landscape designs succeed by reliance on chemical nutrition and physiology in the same way as cabbage and carrot crops. Basic pathways of nutrient use are similar in organic and conventional crops. Moves towards sustainably stable forms of integrated crop or landscape management only add emphasis to these commonalities.

Horticulture is served well by the agro-chemical and fertiliser industries. Huge investments in research and development are their response to the market pressures constraining crop production or landscape design. Consumers' demands for reduced residues and greater safety have produced some very elegant chemistry. Naturally-produced chemical messengers are being tailored as new pesticides with increased efficacy, decreased dose rates and better environmental protection.

Fertiliser manufacturers provide specialist formulations capable of low-level drip delivery that minimises ground water contamination. Some fertilisers even limit soil nitrification, safeguarding nitrate-vulnerable zones.

Chemistry is economically, socially and scientifically important - why else would China produce 15,000 graduates annually? Horticulture would do well to celebrate with the chemists.

Professor Geoffrey Dixon is managing director of GreenGene International.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Is a post-Brexit seasonal worker scheme now impossible?

Is a post-Brexit seasonal worker scheme now impossible?

The UK fresh-produce sector has reacted with dismay at the latest developments in the ongoing debate, largely conducted out of public view, on whether UK horticulture will still have access to seasonal migrant workers when the UK leaves the EU in 18 months' time.

Can UK fresh produce come out of Brexit ahead?

Can UK fresh produce come out of Brexit ahead?

UK production horticulture can become more profitable under one possible Brexit scenario, while other more drastic scenarios will lead to only minor losses in profitability, a new report argues.

Business Planning - Staff are your greatest asset

Business Planning - Staff are your greatest asset

An effective strategy to retain staff is the best way for any business to avoid a potential recruitment crisis, Neville Stein advises.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Professor Geoffrey Dixon

GreenGene International chair Geoff Dixon on the business of fresh produce production

Read Professor Geoffrey Dixon