This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
For the purposes of this discussion we need not concern ourselves with formal definitions of horticulture nor discuss its several divisions. (For definitions, see Horticulture.) It is more to the point to indicate the nature of the research problems to be solved in the several loosely correlated industries of which horticulture is composed. Experimenters in horticulture may investigate the phenomena of science, the mechanical methods of an art, and latterly they have come to have much to do with business affairs. What should be the relative status of science, art and business in research work in this branch of agriculture?
Horticulture is a "no man's land" in science. Botanists, chemists, entomologists, bacteriologists and geneticists, join in solving its problems. First one science and then another lets in its light and illuminates an obscure nook. Thus, systematic botany, in the classification of orchard and garden plants, began the construction of rational horticulture; then came chemistry to furnish knowledge of soils and fertilizers; botany and entomology brought aid in combating innumerable pests. When, however, a discovery is made in any science men are drawn to it as moths to a fight, and botany and entomology, which have recently been most prominent, are now giving way in horticulture to genetics and the sciences having to do with the soil, discovery and activity being greatest in these fields. Thus,, there is no science of horticulture, but there is science in horticulture. The science field, also, is as open to horticulturists as to experimenters in the sciences that form the foundation of horticulture.
The application of science is art. The botanist and entomologist discover the life-history of insects and fungi; the control of the pests, by means of spraying or otherwise, is an art. The discovery of the laws that govern soil-moisture and soil-heat is a field for the scientist; the art of tillage is or should be founded on the science of soil physics. A widely different phase of physics comes into action when the mechanical engineer is asked to help solve the problems of cooling, storing and transporting horticultural products. The manipulation of plants in propagating, grafting and training is an art based on plant physiology. Thus, research work in horticulture partakes of the "practical;" indeed, applicability usually must be a paramount consideration in investigations in this field. Much that is called "pure science" is helpful in horticulture, but the horticulturist is chiefly concerned with applied science.
So, also, there are inter-relations between business, science and art in horticulture. A prevalent phase of experimentation is the determination of the cost of the unit - the barrel of apples, for example - of agricultural products; other business experiments seek to determine the outgo and the income of the orchard and garden; still others consider the relative profits of two crops in certain soils or other environmental conditions. These problems are largely studies of business methods and are not true research subjects, but one can conceive of scientific investigations in the business affairs of horticulture and certainly science and business come into close touch in this industry.
The distinctions that have been made are not clearly defined in the activities of horticulturists. Too often men supposed to be engaged in research work in horticultural science are busy with the art - very often not in discovery or invention in art but simply with the details of well-established art. Much that is put out as the result of research work is a description or a discussion of the technic of horticulture. A study of business methods, pure and simple, is frequently offered as the results of research. These isolated observations on the art and business of horticulture, having no relation to either pure or applied science, ephemeral and of but limited application, bear but poorly the brand of investigation. Data in the art and business of horticulture, to be worth the while of the true research worker, must be a part of the coordinated and classified knowledge of horticulture, must be of more or less universal application, and must deal more or less directly with scientific principles. Investigating is not teaching, nor demonstrating, nor observing, nor describing, nor proving, unless primarily behind any of these is the design to discover laws.
On the other hand, much that passes as scientific investigation turns out to be theory made attractive by the rouge of speculation; or it is controversy for controversy s sake; not infrequently the offering of science is an old garment made over in a new style; or it is a small truth much adorned; sometimes the scientific offering but heralds a discovery which never appears. Pseudo-research is by no means confined to the practical phases of horticulture.
The writer does not overlook the body of good work being turned out by the American experimenters in horticultural lines, but this is not the subject of the present discussion.