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  • Author or Editor: Roland Ebel x
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Urban horticulture is not as new as many people think. Throughout history, different techniques have been used to ensure sustainable urban agricultural production. A good example of this is the chinampa system, which was developed during the time of the Aztecs in the region of Lake Xochimilco, south of Mexico City. A chinampa is a raised field on a small artificial island on a freshwater lake surrounded by canals and ditches. Farmers use local vegetation and mud to construct chinampas. Fences made of a native willow [bonpland willow (Salix bonplandiana)] protect the chinampa from wind, pests, and erosion. The dominating crops are vegetables and ornamentals. The canal water that rises through capillarity to the crops reduces the need for additional irrigation. A considerable portion of the fertility in the soils is system-immanent and generated in the aquatic components of the chinampa. Complex rotations and associations allow up to seven harvests per year. Chinampas also provide ecosystem services, particularly greenhouse gas sequestration and biodiversity diversification, and they offer high recreational potential. Recently, research and community initiatives have been performed to try to recover the productive potential of chinampas and align this sustainable system with the needs of the 21st century. In other parts of the world, some with a history of raised field agriculture, similar efforts are being made. The chinampa model could help supply food and ecosystem services in large cities on or near swamplands, large rivers, or lakes.

Open Access

Urban horticulture describes economically viable horticultural production activities conducted in a city or suburb. It is a growing segment of horticulture in the United States as well as in developing countries, where the enormous growth of megalopolis is not backed by a simultaneous increase of farmland or agricultural productivity. Today, urban horticulture includes food sovereignty in underprivileged neighborhoods, increased availability of vegetables and fruits in big cities, healthy and diverse diets, improved food safety, low transportation costs, efficient resource use, and the mitigation of environmental impacts of horticultural production such as the emission of greenhouse gases. The workshop “Urban horticulture: From local initiatives to global success stories,” held at the 2018 American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) conference in Washington, DC, featured present and historical success stories of urban horticulture from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the United States.

Open Access