Horticulture - the next 25 years

Horticulture industry voices predict the changes to come over the next quarter of a century.

Peter Seabrook
Gardening writer and broadcaster

"My forecast is that plants in gardens will be cared for electronically as an extension of the Hozelock Cloud Control idea with sensors in the soil measuring the water needed. The Paton brothers at Pinetops nursery have a system for their giant pumpkin which costs £3,500 and costs will plummet. GM will be commonplace to give drought tolerance, nitrogen fixation and disease resistance."

Jo Thompson
Director, Landscape and Garden Design

"In terms of design, perhaps we will begin planting more in tune with the environment and taking climate change into consideration. We may also be propagating more of our own plants."

Ali Capper
Chair, NFU Horticulture & Potatoes Board

"I see ahead the development of robotics that function cost effectively, light management technology, bio controls and on farm water management systems."

Geoff Caesar
Director, Bransford Webb Plant Company

"Consolidation is what’s going to happen in the future. We’ve not had as much as I would have thought over the past 20 years but it is probably what we’re going to have to deal with, sadly, because I like a diverse industry and it’s good for the consumer. It will mean we have to grow the business and work with others and with less purchase points."

Jeremy Barrell
Managing director, Barrell Tree Consultancy

"I have one strategic tree/environmental hope above all others. Very much like New York City, which has an effective sustainability strategy, wouldn’t it be sensible for the UK to have a national sustainability strategy, where farming practices, flooding and trees, were managed in the best interests of the wider population rather than the vested interests that dominate decision-making."

Dan Pearson
Director, Dan Pearson Studio

"I think that within 25 years organic gardening will have become a necessity as the toll of the indiscriminate use of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides becomes more apparent. Similarly, I think that plant biosecurity is going to become a hot topic as we try to balance our need for horticultural novelty with the reality of the global spread of plant diseases."

Sue Illman
Managing director, Illman Young

"The future will see plants grown without additional water while all salad (water intense) vegetables and pulses will be grown hydroponically indoors in huge warehouses, within a closed cycle environment.There will also be farms floating on the ocean, which grow crops above the sea and provide an environment for crustaceans and fish."

Tony Kirkham
Head of Arboretum at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

"Every year there are an increasing number of pests and diseases that are affecting our trees in the UK. I foresee more detailed Horizon scanning in Europe and further afield to monitor the movement and distribution of potential exotic pests and diseases around the globe that are not in the UK, yet which will be a serious threat to our treescape."

Carol Paris 
Chief executive, HTA

"There is going to be more consolidation before 25 years is gone and more changes to come from that. We need to be looking at things like climate change and plants to grow for flood alleviation and drought resistance. Health and wellbeing will be on the agenda and the benefits of plants can bring to that."

Mark Gregory 
Managing director, Landform Consultants

"There will be a lot more technology and a lot more community gardens. Will we lose fossil fuels in 25 years? Probably not, but we will in the next 50 years. There will be a lot of upcycling. You won’t be able to afford to take skips away so you will have to recycle on site."

Janine Pattison 
Director, JPS Landscape Design

"The horticultural industry is set to enjoy a renaissance over the next 25 years. Why? We are on the cusp of a social revolution, as people step away from their isolating electronic devices and anti-social ‘social’ media and stumble outside, squinting into the sunlight. Reconnecting with plants. With each other. With living. Horticulture and landscape will come back to the core of how we live."

Michael Walker  
Head of garden and estate, Trentham Estate

"I envisage that the management of our gardens will reflect a much greater understanding and respect of our environment. I see no herbicides, pesticides or inorganic fertilisers. Parks would be grazed not gang mown. Perhaps also we will see a softer and less sanitised approach to how our gardens are presented – visitor perceptions will be realigned. This will be the new normal."

Steve McCurdy   
Managing director, Majestic Trees

"I love what I do, but I fear for the relentless arrival of new pests and diseases driven by the ease of trade worldwide exacerbated by the free movement of plant material across the EU once they enter. We really must get control of this serious issue or there won’t be a 200-year anniversary."

John Adlam   
Nursery stock consultant

"With the industry moving towards natural methods of crop protection we’ll see a wider use of products such as plant elicitors being applied to enhance the plant’s ability to defend itself from pest and disease attack. As we see water availability for crop production being reduced, products to reduce water demand in crops and permit resilience to drought will be in common use. Harvesting of rainwater into reservoirs and selling it to others could emerge as financially viable."

Neil Huck   
National Group Training Manager, Ground Control

"I think from what I’ve seen and heard it will be the use of drones for surveying – I’ve even seen one with a chainsaw – I don’t know how far it’s going to go. The other one which is more likely to happen is that the effects of climate change are going to make horticulture very interesting."

David Domoney   
TV gardener and broadcaster

"The next 25 years will see the first fruits of the children, who are now being taught horticulture at primary school. This will change the attitude of gardening being solely for the older ages and will create new customers who view their gardens as important as their kitchen or lounge. The industry must be ready to service an unprecedented demand from this new generation."

Jack Dunckley   
Garden designer and nurseryman

"I think there’ll be a lot more virtual reality and technology used in landscape design, to bring designs to life before they are actually built. In terms of construction, we will have more ease of manpower, such as easier ways to lay stuff – but it will always be a trade."

Dr Martin McPherson   
Science director, Stockbridge Technology Centre

"The most exciting technology is Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) or City/Urban Farming. The introduction of energy efficient and cool LED lighting linked to improving technologies efficiencies in solar capture and other sustainable energy solutions is key to multi-layer growing systems allowing local production immune from potential climate change/disruption."

Sally Drury   

Technical editor, Horticulture Week

"We will see more use of GPS in grounds maintenance – in activities such as mowing, mapping patterns of mowing and calculating work rates. Now we have the technology for driverless cars, could this herald the era of the driverless tractor and ride-on mower? Irrigation systems will feed ‘good guy’ bacteria to crops, so reducing the need for pesticides. We may also see polytunnels and glasshouses clad with materials that react to sunlight."

Mike Mann   
Chair, protected ornamentals panel, HDC

"There is a bright future for cut flowers and we need to work as hard as we can to help UK cut flower production become as efficient as practically possible to compete in worldwide markets. People would prefer to buy British but we have to be price competitive. The next call is how to reduce labour costs. The area of robotics is one to explore."

Tim Edwards   
Chairman, Boningale Nurseries

"There is a very real likelihood that what we produce will become far more valued than has been the case and demand for the best quality of landscape design will grow massively. The phytosanitary advantage that  UK hardy nursery stock production has will be exploited lead to more UK production."

Spence Gunn   
Freelance horticulture technical editor and writer

"There are three technical developments which are ‘on the threshold’ of revolutionising crop management: robotics automation and remote sensing; DNA sequencing as a tool; and biopesticides. With the increasing costs and legislation surrounding new crop protection chemistry it’s likely that we’ll see a reversal in what we consider ‘conventional’ crop protection products."

Matthew Pottage   
Curator, RHS Wisley

"I imagine over the next 25 years a large development will be going just about organic in gardens, or massively reducing pesticides (whether intentional or not) through reduced options, a greater understanding of alternative methods and options and a pressure from the wider public who seemingly favour organic management."

Darren Share   
Head of parks, Birmingham City Council

"The parks agenda will change and all parks will become more community-focused and centrepieces for other activities. Youth work will happen in parks, health will happen in parks, transport will happen in parks, and other agencies will be delivered through the parks network and through great partnership working."

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