Organic horticulture is growing in countries around the world, according to an article co-authored by Washington State University Extension educator David Granatstein.

Granatstein, a sustainable agriculture specialist in WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, is one of three authors of ”Organic Horticulture Expands Globally” published by the International Society of Horticultural Science in the December 2010 edition of Chronica Horticulturae.  The other authors were Elizabeth Kirby, a research associate with WSU CSANR, and Helga Willer with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Frick, Switzerland.

One of the most detailed of its kind, the article characterizes the extent of organic horticulture production around the world. The findings reflect dramatic increases in the global industry and outline what countries are growing what horticultural crops organically.

Granatstein said the piece helps to paint a detailed picture of organic food production around the globe. ““The data availability and detail improves every year. But we still have major organic producers such as China and India that provide no details on their crops. If they did report, our numbers might change considerably in some cases,” he said.

For example, Mexico has the largest reported area of organic horticulture in the world, followed by Italy, Spain and the United States. According to the Research Institute for Organic Agriculture and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, about 2.15 million hectares of land around the globe were devoted to the organic production of fruits, olives, nuts, vegetables and melons, some root crops, coca beans, coffee tea and mate, flowers and ornamentals, medicinal and aromatic crops, coconuts, hops, nurseries and mushrooms.

Granatstein’s article notes that organic horticulture accounts for approximately 1 percent of all horticultural land worldwide and 6 percent of all organically managed agricultural land. The leading organic horticulture crops, in terms of reported area, are fruits, coffee and olives, followed by vegetables, nuts and cocoa beans. The U.S. is the leading vegetable producer.