Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Garden path to growth

Knowledge of horticulture leads to a vast expanse of opportunities, be it in research, the government sector, the hotel industry or the blooms business, writes Satish Narula

IN this era of wide ranging options for entrepreneurship, horticulture is a field that holds ample scope. Whether you want to be full-time or part-time horticulturist, whether you have your own piece of land or not, you can take up this line and make a decent living out of it.

Niche for nurseries

A degree, diploma or some formal training in horticulture is needed to take up this line. The state agricultural universities offer specialised courses in horticulture. Those who want to pursue higher education can study up to the Ph.D level and then take up teaching, research or extension jobs in agricultural universities and the state government departments.

People with basic qualifications like graduation in horticulture can find jobs in government departments, public corporations and the private sector.

Diploma holders, like those with the garden training class certificate (offered by PAU, Ludhiana), can get employment in the hotel industry, as private farm managers and nursery managers and in other horticulture development institutions.

But even people who do not have any formal qualifications in horticulture can turn entrepreneurs and earn a fortune in this field. Those who own a plot of land can start a nursery. Even those who do not own any land can take a plot on long-term lease and cultivate a nursery there.

In this region, many housewives have started nurseries from their homes. In fact, this is a thriving area of the horticulture business. The plants are brought in bulk from neighbouring states, where they are available at less than half the prevailing rate and sold with profit. The nurserymen also multiply their own plants for sale.

Cash in on cut flowers

Another profitable venture could be undertaking the production of cut flowers. Those near the cities can tap the local markets as the craze for flowers is increasing with every passing day. But before entering this field, one should thoroughly study the market and start with a variety of flowers. This way one can learn about the demand of a particular flower and also the technicalities of producing various types of flowers. Many city dwellers have also entered into the business of flower and bouquet making. Even dry flower business is catching up.

Sow seeds of success

The emerging area in the field of horticulture is flower seed production. This is being done on contract basis by various agencies and private companies with assured buy-back or as an individual venture.

A specialized area in this field is oil production. Many flowers like roses, jasmine, geranium, marigold etc can be cultivated on a large scale for this purpose. One can also attend short-term training programmes in this specific area from state agricultural universities or institutes like the Institute of Himalayan Bioresources at Palampur. Unlike cut flowers, flower oil is not a perishable commodity that needs distress sales.

Eligibility

For doing B.Sc in Agriculture, the minimum qualification is plus two in science or agriculture with physics, chemistry and maths/biology/agriculture as the subjects and at least 50 per cent marks in the aggregate. The same basic qualifications are required for doing a diploma in agriculture (PAU's two-year course at Gurdaspur).

The minimum qualification for admission to various Master's programmes in agriculture is 60 per cent marks or equivalent in graduation in same or related streams. For instance, for MA in Pomology; Floriculture and Landscaping; or Vegetable Crops a B.Sc degree in Agriculture or Horticulture is required.

The writer is a senior PAU horticulturist based in Chd

course Chat
"Horticulture students get work in top agro-based firms"
Ambika Sharma

Dr D.R. Sharma
Dr D.R. Sharma

WITH the coming into force of WTO provisions, the demand for quality agricultural products will push up the need for trained manpower in various agro-based industries, observes Dr D.R Sharma, Dean College of Horticulture, Dr Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni.

Excerpts from an interview:

What is the future scope of horticulture in the country?

There is a vast scope for trained manpower in this field who can be gainfully employed in various fields, including agro-based industries, fruit and vegetable processing units, forestry based industries, insecticide, pesticide and fungicide manufacturing units, tissue culture-based plant production units, etc. In addition, there are jobs in the state horticulture and forest departments that are subject to availability of vacancies. Opportunities also exist in various agriculture universities where candidates can join as faculty members. Employment opportunities are also available in floriculture, testing laboratories and certification at various levels, including nursery production, floor and canopy management, post-harvest management, fertiliser manufacturing and so on

What type of courses is the university offering?

The university offers various 4-year undergraduate, postgraduate courses and doctoral programmes in horticulture and forestry. An MBA in agri-business is also available to the students. What makes the university unique is the fact that it has adopted the Indian Council of Agriculture and Research's (ICAR) syllabus pattern in its various B.Sc courses which prepares a student to compete at the national level. A similar exercise is on to bring the M.Sc syllabus too within the ICAR fold. An MBA student is equipped with all necessary knowledge, including marketing strategy, managerial skills and business acumen, which enable him to compete with other B-school graduates.

What are the placement prospects?

The university has a placement cell which coordinates with the top corporate houses and other farm universities to provide placement to its students. Many of our students have joined as assistant professors in other farm universities of the country. Routine campus interviews are also held. Our students have been placed in prestigious firms like Dabur, Gujarat Ambuja Cement Limited, Zandu Pharmaceuticals, Liberty Shoes, Mother Dairy, Century Seeds, Durga Nursery and Pesticides, Chambal Fertilizers, etc.,

Apart from basic qualifications, what are the attributes required to make a mark in this field?

Sky is the limit to flourish. Although an element of risk is there is every venture an individual takes up, the zeal to excel and a determination to prove oneself are the qualities which can make a big difference. There are cases where even a below average student has proved himself worthy in marketing through sheer hard work and confidence.

A drawback of the local students is their unwillingness to go beyond their state for jobs.

While this leaves a negative impression on the future aspirants, the need to explore other states opens vast avenues for an individual.