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Horticulture is an agricultural science that studies the diversity of forms and varieties of field crops, their biological characteristics and the most perfect methods of cultivation in order to obtain the maximum yield of the best quality at the lowest labor costs and production costs.

Crop production includes:

  • field farming,
  • meadow farming,
  • vegetable farming,
  • fruit farming,
  • viticulture,
  • floriculture,
  • forestry.

However, as a scientific discipline, plant breeding studies only field crops: cereals, legumes, fodder crops, potatoes, gourds, spinners, essential oil-bearing, technical and other crops.

Horticulture closely relates to other sciences: physics, chemistry, botany, plant physiology, geology, soil science, meteorology, farming, agrochemistry, agricultural melioration, breeding and seed production, entomology, phytopathology, mechanization, economics, organization and planning of agricultural production.

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Importance of horticulture

The agricultural plant is the main subject of plant science research. Any green plant converts the energy of sunlight into chemical energy of organic compounds.

Agricultural plants are important in the development of production. For example, thanks to the spread of sugar beet and oilseed crops in Russia in the second half of the XIX century, industrial production of sugar and oil appeared in the country, and the expansion of cultivated areas of potatoes contributed to improving the technical equipment of agriculture, the industry of processing agricultural products, such as distillery, starch production grew.

Cultivation of crops involves many changing factors that affect the growing conditions of plants and, consequently, their productivity. Timely and high-quality execution of all field work is the key to successful farming, while shortcomings and mistakes in agronomic techniques of field crops can be difficult to eliminate. Therefore, in crop production it is necessary to take strict account of all conditions determining the final yield of crops.

Horticulture is interrelated with livestock, which it provides rough, succulent and concentrated fodder, and receives organic fertilizers.

In total more than 20 thousand types of crops are cultivated on Earth, of which only 640 are of the most importance, including about 90 field crops.

Cereals constitute the largest area of agricultural land in the world, 759.4 million ha, which is 70% of the total sown area. The average grain yield is 2 tons per hectare with a gross yield of 1477.3 million tons.

Most of the area is planted to potatoes, sugarcane, sugar beet, soybeans, peanuts, rapeseed, oilseed flax, sunflower, sesame and cotton. Flax, hemp and jute occupy a smaller share.

History of horticulture

The first traces of agriculture were found in the Neolithic (New Stone Age) period. The most ancient are considered the centers of agriculture in India, China, Syria, Egypt, Mexico, Peru and Bolivia.

On the territory of the former Soviet Union, the agricultural centers emerged during the Stone Age in the regions of Central Asia and Transcaucasia. On the territory of modern Ukraine, the results of Trypillia excavations near Kyiv, agriculture was already in the III-II millennium BC, cultivated wheat, barley, hemp and some other plants.

The first mentions of agriculture in the chronicles of Russia are dated 946 A.D.

The origin of plant cultivation in Russia dates back to the 18th century, one of its founders being M.V. Lomonosov (1711-1765), who established “the class of agriculture” at the Russian Academy of Sciences. He proposed a number of ideas to generalize the experience of crop cultivation in Russia.

I.I. Komov (1750-1792) in his book “On Farming” considered some methods of growing potatoes and perennial grasses.

In the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century K.A. Timiryazev, I.A. Stebut, D.N. Pryanishnikov, and N.I. Vavilov made great contributions to the development of crop growing.

K.A. Timiryazev (1843-1920) devoted much time to studying the problems of photosynthesis in plants. Studying the dependence of photosynthesis on the intensity and qualitative composition of light, he gave an explanation of the most important phenomena of plant life. K.A. Timiryazev was the founder and promoter of the development of experimental agronomy and application of vegetative method in the study of physiology and crop production, he assessed the issue of the effect of drought on plants and identified measures to combat this phenomenon.

I.A. Stebut (1833-1923) made a great contribution to the development of several important issues of agriculture. In his major work “Fundamentals of Field Culture and Measures for its Improvement in Russia” for the first time were combined materials on the cultivation of field plants.

D.N. Pryanishnikov (1865-1948) devoted much research to the issues of plant nutrition and the use of fertilizers. On the physiological and biological basis he created a scientific course “Private Farming”.

N.I. Vavilov (1887-1943) developed the doctrine of the world centers of origin of cultivated plants and formulated the law of homologous series. The world’s largest collection of agricultural plants assembled by him, his associates and followers is a source of source material for breeding, introducing and studying the evolution of cultivated plants.

S.P. Kulzhitsky (leguminous crops), I.V. Yakushkin (cereals, potatoes, sugar beet), N.I. Kuleshov (corn, wheat), A.I. Nosatovsky (wheat), V.A. Kharchenko (forage root crops), N.A. Maisuryan (lupins) made great contributions to the development of plant breeding. Works in the field of field crop breeding are of great importance for plant breeding. Some of the famous Soviet breeders are P.P. Lukyanenko, V.S. Pustovoit, V.I. Remeslo, V.Y. Yuriev. F.G. Kirichenko, P.F. Garkavy, V.N. Madontova, N.V. Tsitsik, V.N. Sokolov, M.I. Khajinov, A.L. Mazlumov.

Plant classifications

The classification of plants is somewhat arbitrary. For example, cotton in Central Asian countries is cultivated as an annual plant, while in tropical latitudes as a perennial polycarpic plant.

By duration of life:

  • annuals;
  • biennial;
  • perennial.

By number of generations of generative shoots:

  • monocarpic, or once-fruiting;
  • polycarpic, or repeatedly fruiting.

According to the demand for light and heat:

  • temperate zone plants;
  • plants of southern latitudes – subtropical and tropical zones.

Plants of the temperate zone were formed under conditions of periodic change of warm and cold seasons. They are characterized by higher cold and frost resistance. As a rule, their development accelerates as they move northward (long-day plants) or they react weakly to the length of the day. Such crops include wheat, rye, oats, barley, early leguminous plants, root crops, sunflowers, safflower, oil-bearing cabbage family, flax, perennial and annual legumes and cereal grasses, some varieties of hemp.

Plants of southern latitudes were formed under conditions of little changing thermal regime during vegetation. All phases of development of these crops occur at high temperatures. They are unstable to low and, moreover, to negative temperatures and are short-day plants. Such plants include corn, rice, millet, beans, potatoes, melons, cotton.

Production and botanical-biological grouping of field crops

Field crops include about 90 plant species from different botanical families. Each of these species and even individual varieties differ in morphological, biological, economic properties and cultivation methods.

I.A. Stebut in his book “Fundamentals of field culture and measures for its improvement in Russia”, proposed a classification of plants based on the peculiarities of cultivation. He divided field crops according to the density of standing into plants of the fallow, field and meadow “wedge”. Such a simplified division had a number of drawbacks: it combined dissimilar crops, for example, flax and grasses into one group, or, sugar beet was included in the fallow “wedge”, although it could be placed in the fallow only in some southern regions of the country.

D.N. Pryanishnikov in his textbook “Private Farming” applied a complex grouping. He divided the crops of the meadow “wedge” into spinning and forage crops, and cereals into crops with grains rich in: a) starch, b) proteins, c) oil.

This classification of field crops was retained in I.V. Yakushkin’s textbook “Crop Production”.

I.P. Podgorny suggested grouping field crops according to their purpose:

  • cereal crops;
  • technical crops;
  • melons gourds;
  • fodder crops.

The Department of Crop Husbandry at the K.A. Timiryazev Moscow Agricultural Academy (TSKHA) adopted the grouping of field crops by the most significant feature relevant to agricultural production, the nature of product use:

  • cereal crops;
  • root crops, tuber crops, melons, fodder crops;
  • fodder crops;
  • oil-bearing and essential oil-bearing crops;
  • spinning crops;
  • tobacco.

Research methods in crop production

Horticulture uses field and vegetation experiments as methods of research.

Field experiments allow to carry out a comparative assessment of the action of practical agricultural techniques, such as tillage, fertilization, rates and methods of sowing, plant care, evaluation of previous crops (agrotechnical experiments), as well as to select the best crop varieties, when under the same conditions varieties and hybrids are evaluated by yield and quality of plant products (experiments on variety testing).

Depending on the number of factors studied, field experiments can be single-factor and multifactor. The latter may include various combinations of studied factors.

Varieties of field experiments include laboratory-field experiment, which is used for preliminary study of the issue on small plots and with little repetition, and production experiment, which is conducted at agricultural enterprises for a comprehensive practical evaluation of individual techniques of agronomic techniques or varieties.

Production experience is the final stage of scientific research and is an effective means of introducing new techniques and technologies of agrotechnics, field crops and varieties into agricultural production.

Vegetation experience is used in crop production to study biological, physiological, agrochemical and other issues. It allows to trace on a plant the effect of individual, to a certain extent isolated factors, nutrient inputs, interaction of fertilizer with soil, etc.

In a vegetation experiment plants are grown in special premises, for example, in greenhouses, vegetation houses; in vessels filled with soil, sand or nutrient solution (aquatic crops).

To study the effect of environmental factors on plants, as well as various physiological and biochemical processes, artificial climate chambers (phytotrons) are used, in which operating modes are automatically taken into account and, if necessary, changed.

Geographic principles of field crop placement

The geographical distribution of field crops in Russia is determined by the soil and climatic conditions of the region. Some crops are planted only in certain regions with specific environmental conditions, for example, rice, corn for grain, soybeans, others (most of them) are cultivated in most regions, for example, cereals, fodder, industrial crops.

In some regions, soil and climatic conditions for some crops are unfavorable. For example, in most of Eastern Siberia with harsh winters winter cereal crops are not cultivated. In general, conditions for the cultivation of crops for Russia can be considered unfavorable, for example, in terms of the duration of the frost-free period, the sum of active temperatures, the amount of precipitation, on average, half as much as in Western Europe or North America.

One of the geographical principles of the location of field crops is the proximity of cities and industrial centers, in particular, this determines the limited areas under the production of potatoes and vegetables. There are raw material zones for sugar beet, potato, and flax production around agricultural processing enterprises.

Location and specialization of crop production are associated with the administrative-territorial division of the country. The regions of Russia and the former Soviet Union are characterized by the specialization of crop production:

  • Northwest region – grain, fodder, flax, potato specialization;
  • Central region – grain, flax, potato specialization;
  • Volgo-Vyatsky region – grain, potato, in some areas – beet specialization;
  • Central Black Earth region – grain, beetroot, sunflower, ether oil, potato specialization;
  • Volga region – grain, sunflower, sugar beet, melon, potato specialization;
  • North Caucasus – grain, sunflower, sugar beet specialization;
  • South-Western region – grain, sunflower, beetroot, linen, potato specialization;
  • Southern region – grain, sunflower specialization;
  • Urals, Western and Eastern Siberia – grain, fodder, potato specialization;
    Far East – soybean, rice, potato specialization;
  • Baltic countries – grain, fodder, potato, in some parts – flax and beet specialization;
  • Belarus – grain, flax, potato, fodder specialization;
  • Ukraine – grain, sunflower, beet specialization;
  • Transcaucasian republics – tobacco, cotton, grain specialization;
  • Central Asian countries – cotton, rice, grain specialization;
  • Kazakhstan – grain specialization, in the south – cotton, rice, beet specialization.

Economic regions can be subdivided into agricultural zones with the same natural conditions. Thus, the Central economic region, in which the main crops are potatoes and long-fibre flax, can be distinguished:

  • flax-livestock zone, which includes Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Tver and Smolensk regions. This zone accounts for up to 87% of flax-fibre crops;
  • suburban zone, including Moscow, Vladimir, Kaluga, Ivanovo regions;
  • the southwestern zone, including Ryazan, Tula, Orel and Bryansk oblasts, with a predominance of potato crops.

The geographical distribution of field crops may be due to land reclamation. 

The development of new varieties and hybrids with lower requirements for soil and climatic conditions, expands the possibilities of cultivation of some crops. For example, the northward expansion of the geography of potato, barley, and oats crops.

Managing plant development

As K.A. Timiryazev noted, the leading role in the development of plants is played by the temperature factor. The sum of biologically active temperatures is used as an indicator of crop heat demand. Knowing the plants’ need for heat at each stage of their development allows, based on meteorological data, to determine the probable dates of onset of certain phases of development and maturation of a particular variety in specific areas.

Plant development management is based on regulation of plant life factors, i.e. on management of water, air, heat and soil nutrient regimes.

Formation of high yields of field crops and improvement of product quality are connected with the introduction and use of advanced techniques of agrotechnics, sowing the best varieties. For example, in experiments Myroniv Research Institute of Breeding and Seed Production of wheat gluten content in the grain of winter wheat variety Myronivska 808, depending on the predecessor was: after a black fallow – 34.3%, after pea – 32.3%, after corn for silage – 23.8%. At the Ukrainian Scientific Research Institute of Irrigated Agriculture gluten content in grain of the same variety increased from 27.9% without fertilizers to 36.9% on fertilized background.

According to the All-Russian Research Institute of Sugar Beet and Sugar (VNIISS), sugar beet going after winter crops after fallow, had a sugar content of 17.8%, one year after perennial grasses – 17.5%. When sowing sugar beets by early plowing, sugar content increased by 0.2-0.6%. The early harvesting (August, 20-25) resulted in sugar content of 17.6%, and the timely harvesting (October, 3-5) – 19%.

Sunflower varieties developed by the All-Union Research Institute of Oilseeds (VNIIMK) differ significantly in oil content. The oil content in sunflower seeds of the VNIIMK improved variety 8931 is 46-47%, in the Peredovik improved variety – 49-50%, in the Luch variety – 53.4%.

Improvement of photosynthetic activity of plants, i.e. their ability to store more than 5-6% of the physiologically active radiation (PAR) in the yield instead of the current 1-1.5% has a perspective significance in increasing the yield of field crops.

Increasing the PAR utilization rate is associated primarily with the development of new high-yielding varieties and hybrids, as well as with the creation of the necessary conditions for growth and development to manifest the maximum biological productivity.


Plant breeding/P.P. Vavilov, V.V. Gritsenko, V.S. Kuznetsov, et al. Gritsenko, V.S. Kuznetsov, etc.; Edited by P.P. Vavilov. – M.: Agropromizdat, 1986. – 512 p.: ill. – (Textbook and textbooks for higher education institutions).