L. Bertschinger
The International Horticultural Congress 2002 at Toronto may have been the last opportunity where sustainability could have been launched at a conference, and, for the contributing societies of horticultural science to be made an explicit issue in the discipline of applied agricultural research.
Sustainability has in the last years been treated as a key issue by many professional institutions associated to agricultural research or to many other professional branches contributing to economic development, for example in construction, city planning, the chemical industry etc. The issue of sustainability has been taken up by these branches for addressing future needs to support the development of their respective profession.
In my view. sustainability will soon have lost the taste of novelty in agricultural research, which of course does not mean that it will be of less potential importance for the development of horticulture. The reverse is true. But if horticulture does not participate increasingly in the sustainability discussion and does not play a leadership or pacemaker role in addressing the needs of developing sustainable agricultural systems, it loses funding potential for third level programs. The loss of these programs will weaken the essential basis for sustainability and its adherents in rural households and businesses.
Up to recently, the leaders of the discussion on the sustainability of agricultural systems have been mainly food crops with high energy content, such as e.g. cereals and potato but to a much lesser extent by horticultural crops. This may be, because the world faces frightening population prospects. Increases from 5.9 billion people at 1998 to 7.5 billion by 2020 and 8.4 billion by 2050 are projected by the UN population Fund, and 84% of the world’s population will then be in those countries that currently make up the non-industrialized, so called ‘developing’ world. The cities will grow, the landscape will probably be continuously depopulated. However, more food will be expected to be produced per unit area in the traditional growing areas on soils of compromised quality; and/or acreage will be increased by starting cultivation of marginal areas with limited productive potential. More pressure is therefore expected on natural resources as population grows and food insecurity will also grow (Pretty, 1999). The availability of water for agriculture will decrease, and these things will happen while climate is changing. Some studies have concluded that, even with potentially severe local effects of climate change on agriculture, global agricultural production can be sustained and that global environmental problems such as ozone depletion and global warning contribute much less to health risks and economic productivity than dirty water, inadequate sanitation, air pollution and land degradation (Rosenzweig and Parry, 1994). However great uncertainties remain and few, if any, agricultural policies have been called specifically appropriate in addressing issues of climate change (Reilly, 1995)...
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2004.638.1
world food supply, prosperity, well being

Acta Horticulturae