The future is bright for Horticulture graduates says Programme Leader Dr Cara Daly – there is a global shortage of trained and skilled horticulturists
Dr Cara Daly, Programme Leader BSc in Horticulture (WIT-Kildalton).
Lectures on Agriculture, Forestry, Agricultural Science, Horticulture, General Science, Land Management, and Irish Wildlife Conservation.
Modules taught Plant Biology, Introductory Biology, Project Research, Project Implementation, Laboratory Skills for Plant Science, Plants and Society, and Cell Biology and Biochemistry.
Home is From Meath, lives in north Wexford.
Land Science credentials: The daughter of a dairy farmer/gardener/all-round landscape and wildlife enthusiast, I’d be quite happy to run the farm (i.e. milk cows!) if it wasn’t 150 miles away!
My interest in Land Management and Horticulture stems from my love of the outdoors, wildlife and the changes seasons bring. I am keen to understand and conserve our natural habitats for future generations but realise that humankind also needs to take what we need from the land. T
he question is; how do we do get what we need from agriculture and maintain healthy ecological systems? I think understanding plants better is the answer to this question. At an early age, I realised plant life underpins all life on earth.
If we can better understand how plants grow, reproduce and interact with soil, bacteria and fungi, then we can identify plant species/varieties which will grow better and produce better yields in the many types of growing environments on earth. To this end, I am especially interested in plants’ interactions with cyanobacteria and fungi, how they exploit the niches they find themselves in, and how we, as scientists, can use this information to improve sustainability of large crop systems and the natural biota they influence.
Undergraduate degree BSc. in Botany (Hons) from UCD in 2009
Masters and/or PhD PhD in Plant Cell Biology from UCD in 2013.
PhD title Investigating the role of long-chain sphingoid bases in plant programmed cell death.
Research interests Changes in plant cell biochemistry in response to environmental or biotic stresses. Production of secondary metabolites in plants. Cyanobacteria/Fungi and plant interactions.
Links with industry Before returning to college as a mature student, I worked in pharma for eight years with Covidien, Glaxo Smithkline (GSK) and Takeda Pharma Ireland.
Career trends for Horticulture graduates The horticulture industry is so diverse.
- We educate Turfgrass specialists who establish and maintain sports surfaces in stadia, and on golf courses.
- Our Nursery stock specialists have the skills to propagate plants. They breed, identify and multiply new varieties of plants and market them all over the world.
- Students who have studied Laboratory Skills for Plant Science can work in laboratory environments where they develop new methods to produce hundreds of plants per hour! The horticulture industry also extends to large-scale farming of fruit and vegetables whether they be in open fields or under glass.
- Then there’s the landscape designers who imagine beautiful new communal spaces on paper and ensure they take the needs of everyone who might use it into account. When the landscape contractors build these spaces, the parks attendants maintain them and over the years, craft them into mature parks and woodlands. Without a vibrant horticulture industry our public spaces would look very different.
- Plants make people happy too. Our students can study floristry and interior landscaping which brings little beauty into peoples’ lives. And, plants (and working with them) are therapeutic. Our students of horticulture therapy know how to use plants to reach people; to show people that they have talents, to encourage communication, to help heal, increase confidence, and to relieve stress.
To sum up, is there another career which has the potential to vastly improve our landscapes and induce happiness? I’m not sure there is…
The main challenge facing the Horticulture industry in Ireland is Actually, I think the future of horticulture in Ireland is very bright! I think that misguided preconceived ideas often exist which suggests horticulture involves, in general, unskilled, poorly paid outdoor work. In truth, the horticulture industry is incredibly diverse, and in WIT, we have a wide range of specialisations available to graduates. In addition, our graduates are STEM trained and this is often overlooked and undervalued in the horticulture industry; we graduate scientists trained to examine hypothesis and datasets using scientifically robust methods. So whether a student wants to run their own nursery, or continue to postgraduate education, there are routes available for them to do this. And don’t forget! All the skills and knowledge learned in our horticulture degree are mobile; the world is, literally, your oyster.
My top tip for horticulturalists wanting to get ahead in Horticulture: Get educated and find your niche. Find what you love doing and do it well and with a smile; enthusiastic knowledge horticulturists are seldom bored (or out of work)! Also, network and learn your industry inside out. Last but not least, be positive and become an advocate for yourself, what you do, and your horticulture industry.
A little known fact about Horticulture is: There is a global shortage of trained and skilled horticulturists. For graduate Horticulturists interested in plant pathology (disease prevention), you’re in luck when it comes to job prospects! In a recent report, the British Society for Plant Pathology found that most plant pathologists in the UK are between 40 and retirement age, and as they retire, they are not being replaced by new entrants to the specialism.
How times have changed: As we produce more horticulture graduates the industry is becoming more professional and these highly skilled graduates have the skills to market themselves and their businesses better. Most new businesses fail because of poor business acumen. Our Horticulture BSc. ensures our graduates are trained sufficiently to manage, grow and diversify their businesses and overall, this leads to increased professionalism in the horticulture industry. However, the student profile hasn’t really changed over the years; we still have a good mix of school leavers entering the course, along with the mature students who have worked in other industries and have decided they want to study their first love. Horticulture.