Human Issues in Horticulture
Dr. Diane Relf, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, wrote a keystone literature review summarizing where the horticulture industry stood in its history in relation to affecting human health and well being. The paper helped to jump start a number of conversations and efforts nationally to position gardening and ornamental horticulture in national discussions regarding quality of life and health. Her conclusion: “By focusing on the human issues in horticulture and seeking an understanding of the value of plants to people, horticulturists stand to gain in many areas. The information gathered through basic and applied research in this area is critical in directing the growth and development of the profession. As Lewis (1988) stated: ‘It seems obvious that an industry whose sole survival depends on the purchase of plants should understand the meanings plants may hold and the kinds of needs they satisfy in the people who purchase them.’
“Although some would maintain that the need for plants in our environment is so clear that research in the area would be redundant, Ulrich and Parson (1992) clearly justify the need for further research:”
‘Unfortunately, intuitive arguments in favor of plants usually make little impression on financially pressed local or state governments, or on developers concerned with the bottom line. Politicians, faced with urgent problems such as homelessness or drugs, may dismiss plants as unwarranted luxuries. The lack of research on plant benefits also has tended to reduce spending for plants in other important settings, such as workplaces, health-care facilities, and outdoor areas of apartment complexes.’
“Increased research in this area coupled with communications to make the public aware of the findings would increase significantly the appreciation and use of plants, and in so doing, would increase the demand for horticultural products and services, increase the number of jobs in the industry and, ultimately, increase the demand and funding for traditional horticultural research and education.
“Equally important to increasing the demand for horticulture, further research into the human influences in horticulture can result in the increased survival of plants, since social and emotional factors play as great a role as botanical and physical factors in plant survival. This research will have a direct influence on the development of environmentally sound and humanly healthful landscapes.
“As horticulturists move into the ‘decade of the environment,’ we are called upon to recognize the inter-relationship between humans and the environment and to expand our research efforts to address this relationship, thus enhancing the value of the Garden in the ‘grand scheme of things.’” (1992) HortTechnology.