Climate, new blood and the economy

Three issues came up time and again as Horticulture Week took the temperature of the industry this week in its poll on prospects for 2008: climate change, the search for new blood and worries over an increasingly fragile economy.

As contractor and former BALI president Neil Huck notes, sustainability is raising its head ever more, with landscaping and grounds maintenance clients "asking for environmental policies and action". His comments are echoed in this week's Landscape Review (p9-p12), which examines how sustainability is becoming the watchword for streetscape projects - a move likely to be fuelled even further when CABE Space's research into the adaptation of street design to accommodate climate change is published next spring.

Meanwhile, garden and park teams are moving to formalise their climate change policies, while the pressures on production horticulture to be seen to be green continue apace. A key challenge for 2008 will be for horticulture to be recognised as at the forefront of climate change solutions, says NFU horticulture board chair Richard Hirst. "We're providing a countryside that is well-managed and looked after through a profitable industry."

Skills shortages and the desperate need to find a better way to secure fresh blood for the industry dominated in 2007 and are certain to do so next year. "We have to realise green space will be the issue of the next 50 years, and we need to train a workforce to look after it," says Capel Manor's Steve Dowbiggin. With the Green Skills initiative making headway, there is now at the very least an opportunity for the industry to act in a co-ordinated way when needed.

The final factor - a faltering economy - means the pressures on businesses to implement efficiency savings and better ways of working will continue throughout 2008. Amenity is booming right now - but there are very real concerns about the impact of the property downturn this time next year. On the upside, it seems not everyone is fearful of the arrival of the corporates into garden retail - the GCA's David Danning thinks it could present an opportunity.

On that positive note, from everyone at Horticulture Week, we wish all our readers a happy and successful 2008 - and will see you again on 10 January.

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