In the news: the variety and opportunity horticulture offers

This article first appeared in the May-June 2019 edition of Teagasc's Today's Farm. It is abridged and reproduced here by the kind permission of Today's Farm editor, Mark Moore

This article first appeared in the May-June 2019 edition of Teagasc's Today's Farm. It is abridged and reproduced here by the kind permission of Today's Farm editor, Mark Moore

Horticulture students outline the extraordinary range of experiences they have encountered during the courses and after graduation

This article first appeared in the May-June 2019 edition of Teagasc's Today's Farm. It is abridged and reproduced here by the kind permission of Today's Farm editor, Mark Moore.

“The Bachelor of Science in Horticulture level 7 at Waterford Institute of Technology/Teagasc Kildalton is very diverse and opens many doors. Some of my classmates look after the gardens in a castle, another is working on Donald Trump’s course near Doonbeg, another is working on the stunning new Adare Manor Golf Course and another is working in a well-known garden centre.”

So says Shane Burke, who is currently senior maintenance groundsman with SIS Pitches in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Shane is in charge of 80% of football clubs’ stadium and training pitches in the Arabian Gulf League, and school pitches also. “My typical week consists of driving around the UAE (Abu Dhabi, Hatta, Al Ain, Sharjah and Ajman) liaising with staff making sure the football pitches are up the highest possible standard and that the maintenance plan is being followed closely. I also meet with clients and customers all around the Middle East, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Israel and Egypt. Every day has been different since I started 17 months ago. I have been lucky to be involved in major football tournaments including the FIFA Club World Cup, which was held in the UAE in 2017 and 2018.” 

BSc in horticulture

“I really liked the diversity of the course, as it was not all about study. I enjoyed the practical side of things in Teagasc Kildalton College; you got hands-on experience of machinery and also planting, etc. There was a lot of variety.

“I was fortunate to get my work experience in Croke Park stadium. My day-to-day duties included the preparation of the pitch for league and championship games and maintaining machinery. “On match day, I was liaising with divoters, coaching staff of teams, instructing them where to do their warm-ups and also liaising with stewards and officials. Also, I was learning about fertiliser and chemicals and application rates. I was very lucky to gain experience in a world class stadium and pitch.”

Benefits of the course

“There are so many subjects included that help in everyday life, computer skills, communications even accounting. In the position I am working in now, communication is key, especially when I’m dealing with different nationalities every day. “Subjects like plant biology, which give you a vital insight into how plant systems work, are also fundamental. You have to understand the soil, the grass and need to know what the problems with the plant are. You also need to know when to apply chemicals, fertilisers and what is best for the plant given the conditions currently and in the future weeks.

“Our next major project is the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. We have just finished building 30 training pitches there now and hope to get some of the stadiums for the tournament also, so that will certainly be interesting and  a challenge I’m looking forward to. “There’s opportunity all over the world for horticulture students, not just in turfgrass, but landscaping and other areas too. Highly qualified skilled people are hard to find in the industry and there is a big demand for them.”

Current students

Zack Meehan is studying for a degree in horticulture at the Teagasc College at the National Botanic Gardens. He is part of a first year class of 18 students taking their degree, which, again, is run in conjunction with Waterford Institute of Technology. The students complete three years in their degree, six semesters in total, one of which is a full work experience semester which can be conducted in Ireland or abroad. The degree is based entirely in the Teagasc College, which is bi-located between National Botanic Gardens and Teagasc Ashtown in Dublin. “My course is going well and I have learnt a lot already,” says Zack. “We attend for work experience on one day per week in Teagasc Ashtown as part of our practical work experience on the course. We will out a work diary to gain the most from this experience. I am doing six subjects this semester. These include plant knowledge, plant propagation, horticultural mechanisation, horticultural building construction, horticultural skills training and chemistry for land scientists.

“Exams are completed at the end of each semester and you move on to new subjects in the following semester. Each semester is 12 weeks of teaching, so the time is very short. Horticultural building construction is my favourite subject. My great-great-grandfather had a nursery in Kimmage called Irish Nurseries. My grandfather worked with the queen on her gardens and, at present, I work alongside my father in his tree surgery business when not at college. I feel that the course is giving me the tools to help build up my skills which will help me be part of the family business. The level 7 course is full on, but you learn so much from it.”

Horticulture courses

Level 5 and 6 full-time horticultural courses are provided at the Teagasc College of Amenity Horticulture, National Botanic Gardens, Dublin, and Teagasc Kildalton, Co Kilkenny. Both colleges have substantial horticultural facilities and extensive industry links with a hands-on teaching and learning experience delivered by specialised horticultural staff. Accredited and non-accredited short courses and industry continuous professional development events are also offered.

Waterford Institute of Technology degree programmes are also delivered at both colleges providing progression opportunities for learners.

Related Courses

Bachelor of Science in  Horticulture (Kildalton College)
Bachelor of Science in  Horticulture (National Botanic Gardens)

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