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Sprouting Avenues

Combine pure science with a green thumb and you have a horticulturist. Vimal Chander Joshi reports.

education Updated: Nov 03, 2009 14:50 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

If you cringe at the thought of being tied to a desk when it comes to a job, how about supervising a 100-acre garden full of ornamental plants?

Pramod Sharma, who has been a horticulturist for a corporate house and for the lifestyle spa Ananda in the Himalayas, has always found his job “satisfying” for the creativity it allows him. “Your job is to adorn a piece of land with beautiful plants, shrubs and flowers,” says Sharma, currently horticulture manager with IHHR Hospitality, owner of Ananda. There is a lot of science behind the green thumb. “Care has to be taken to choose the right type of soil and seeds that can produce the best results in the existing weather conditions,” says Sharma.

As a horticulturist, one has to pick one of these specialisations — vegetable science; fruit technology; floriculture. The first two involve tending to or researching plantations of fruit or vegetables. Floriculture involves maintaining a garden and/or using scientific methods to enhance its medicinal values.

For a horticulturist with specialisation in floriculture, there is increasing scope with people paying more attention to greenery. Be it a highway authority or a civic body, a farmhouse owner or a corporate house, all are keen to beautify the surroundings.

“Because of this, I foresee a bright career for horticulturists. The beautification not only helps the environment but also utilises waste water,” says VD Sharma, deputy director (retd), Noida Authority (horticulture).

Furkhan Khan is a young horticulture graduate and an agripreneur who runs a nursery, Plants World, in Delhi. Business is brisk, thanks to the mushrooming of corporate offices in Gurgaon and farmhouse beautification in Mehrauli. “Corporate offices take plants on rent — the trend has spread all over the NCR,” says Khan, who has hired three horticulturists to keep up with the demand.

Besides jobs, the field also offers opportunities in self-employment, research and consultancy. It can be pretty hi-tech stuff. Sabina Islam, a scientist in the horticulture division of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, says, “You get to create high-yielding varieties of vegetables or fruits, keeping in mind its nutrient value and genetic nature.”

Manoj Singh, who did MSc (horticulture), runs a consultancy, Chandel Agritech Solutions, in New Delhi to promote agri-ventures, and he feels, “Integrating management and agriculture is the need of the hour.”

Horticulture usually refers to gardening on a smaller scale, unlike agriculture, which involves largescale cultivation of crops. A horticulturist is a professional who uses his/her knowledge of the science of plant cultivation. Horticulturists work to improve crop yield, quality, nutritional value, and resistance to insects, diseases and environmental stress. They work and conduct research in the areas of crop production, plant breeding and genetic engineering (cross-breeding of crops), plant biochemistry and plant physiology. The work particularly involves fruits, berries, nuts, vegetables, flowers, trees, shrubs and turf

Clock Work
7 am: Brief the gardeners and supervisers and assign them work
8 am: Field duty to ensure the staff is carrying out their tasks properly
9 am: Call and meet vendors
1 pm: Take a round of the field and do status check
2 pm: Lunch
3 pm: Explore the best varieties of seeds and plants for plantation
5 pm: Last field visit of the day and a talk with the staff about the plan for the next

The Payoff
The starting salary is about Rs 12,000 a month as superviser/ horticulturist. At the middle level, which is manager/senior manager, one can earn around Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 a month. At the top level of director, the pay package can be as high as Rs 1 lakh a month.

The salary also depends on the kind of company and work profile the professional has chosen

Ability to work hard as the job involves a lot of leg work
. Innovative and creative streak combined with a bent for science as the job requires
improving the quality of vegetables or fruits
. Ability to retain information as you have to deal with plant nomenclature
. Love of the outdoors as you spend most of the time there

How do i get there?
Study agriculture science at the Bachelor’s level and specialise in horticulture in your Master’s, which is MSc (horticulture) from any of the State Agricultural Universities.

A doctorate is mandatory for research. But a postgraduate degree would suffice if your interest lies in consultancy or landscape designing or in case you aim to join a resort/ hotel/corporate house as a horticulturist

Institutes & urls
Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Delhi
. Anand Agricultural University, Anand, Gujarat
. Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, Pantnagar,
. Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Raipur, Chattisgarh
. Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology, Bhubaneswar
. An exhaustive list is available on the ICAR website

Pros & Cons
. You stay connected to nature
. Each project has its own novelty value. There is wide scope to use your creativity
in research as well as in practice
. You serve society when you beautify an area
. The job scene is opening up, but since a hotel or a resort can manage with one or
two horticulturists, only excellence ensures a good pay packet

Youth need to see the potential

A scientist speaks of the way ahead for this blooming field

In what ways is horticulture different from farming and gardening?
In horticulture, you have to keep in mind the genetic properties of the type of vegetable or fruit grown. There are many scientific factors to be reckoned, like nutritive value, seed quality, nature of soil and the likely fallout of cross breeding.

I studied botany with specialisation in plant physiology and specialised in horticulture.

How has horticulture changed in the past few years?
Productivity has increased manifold and a rising demand for vegetables/fruits is creating pressure to produce more on the limited land available.

Is research the only safe option for a horticulturist?
No, there are avenues in consultancy and self-employment. Now, the government has realised the need to integrate industry and research. This has led to many small entrepreneurs setting up shop.

Why do youngsters shun horticulture?
They are misguided — they don’t realise the potential.

Dr Subodh Joshi Interviewed by Vimal Chander Joshi