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From the book "People and the Sky of Yerevan", Bagrazyan G.S.

   And again we have before us a flat sheet of asphalt. This time we are going to the experimental sites of the Republican Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry in the villages of Yeraskhaun and Arevik, in the Hoktemberyan region. We are going with the director of the institute, Grant Petrovich Petrosyan. He tells some funny story, laughs heartily.


    My interlocutor is one of those who immediately wins over with friendliness, frankness of judgment, a good joke, a sharp word.


   The highway, rolled up to a shine, is rapidly approaching, lies under the wheels of the car. With an angry hiss, blue giants rush past - buses, powerful dump trucks, fast squat Volga, nimble Muscovites and Zhiguli rush past.


   Busy road! People, cargo, cars, wagons. Live stream. All this flows and flows. Without stopping, without end, like a well-organized conveyor. The conveyor-road carries innumerable riches, which the earth can only give. Striped watermelons are shaking in the backs of trucks, tight bunches of red, thick black, amber, pink grapes filled with juice, ruddy and waxy yellow apples, blood-red tomatoes, vegetables. There is no end to the orchards and vineyards on both sides of the road. We are in the very center of a powerful green "cyclone".


    What other time of the year can be compared with the autumn of the Ararat valley — golden, vigorous, generous... Ararat autumn itself looks like a heavy, ripe fruit. Gardens drenched in gold.

And suddenly the miracle disappears somewhere, as if falling through the ground. The car slows down and rolls swaying on the side of the road, leaving the asphalt. Before us opens a view from which it hurts. This transition takes place so unexpectedly, so unusually, that, a sinful deed, one can see some kind of bad trick in it.

I catch myself looking around incomprehensibly: was it not a vision of a picture of a generous autumn that recently stood before my eyes? Or perhaps the vision is desolation?

Sad picture. Dying earth. One word - salt marshes. Far away, as far as the eye can see, are lands that are forever crossed out from the concept of “cultural”. And all this in the center of the fertile Ararat plain. Literally a kilometer away, life triumphs, and here, on a huge square, white-dirty spots have spread. As if scab hit the face of the plain.

- Smallpox of the earth, an ailment that requires treatment, - this is what the founder of Russian soil science V. V. Dokuchaev said about salt marshes.


   Naked, desolate plain. Only bushes of saltwort and tamarisk, whitish salt-loving plants suggest that something can grow on this soil. Maybe! .. But no matter how hard you try, no matter how you cultivate such land, it will no longer bloom, will not please fruits. Salt marshes are death for everything that grows, that stretches upwards, lives.


    saline soils. It is because of them that humanity lost one of the most ancient civilizations - Mesopotamia. At least one of the reasons.


    I look at Grant Petrovich in confusion. He slowly follows me out of the car and stops next to me. For some time we stand, crushed by desolation, and silently survey the lands before us. The words sound dull, unintelligible. There is a silence: a long, painful one.


   “Here are the lands we work on!” Grant Petrovich finally breaks the silence. Now he is collected, focused. And he is no longer the pleasant companion he used to be for about ten minutes.


   For 30 years now, since the first days of his scientific activity. Grant Petrovich deals with the issue of "revitalization" of saline lands, he, like no one else, knows what the salt marshes of Armenia are like.


   According to statistics, more than thirty thousand hectares of fertile land have been “killed” by salts in the republic. The loss for the republic, as you can see, is considerable. It is not difficult to estimate how much this can give. And most importantly, the area of solonchaks, if they are not tamed, will constantly increase.


    The heaviest types of salt marshes, and their number reaches sixteen, are considered carbonic, that is, soda. They are characteristic of the lands of the Ararat plain. In this case, drainage and flushing are rather ineffective means. By the way, it rarely happens that a method of revitalizing saline lands, proven by practice in one region of the country, could be successfully applied in another. For each type of solonchak, it turns out, it is necessary to apply its own method, suitable only for the given locality.


   And so the soil scientists of the republic were faced with the task of finding a rational way of mastering the style of heavy salt marshes. Many people went to this, they went along difficult and different paths. Pavel Sergeyevich Pogosov, Ashot Ivanovich Chitchyam, Rachya Tigranovich Ananyan, Gegham Khachaturovich Aghajanyan, Vergine Gareginovna Aghababyan, Armenui  Sumbatovna Rafaelyan, Grant Petrovich Petrosyan, Karo Avetisovich Hovhannisyan - from a young scientist. to the venerable academician - such is “an incomplete list of those who gave years of work and a lot of strength to the victory over the solonchaks. From which side they did not approach the solution of the issue. Drainage, flushing, introduction into the soil of a wide variety of chemical products, ranging from the simplest manure to complex acids We turned to the experience of many scientists, both domestic and foreign.


    In our age of the greatest discoveries, we expect from science a quick and effective miracle. But there are no miracles in the world. They are all the more excluded by soil scientists, who have to work in huge natural "laboratories" spread over hundreds of hectares. The fight against soil salinization is a delicate and very complex matter. Numerous and long-term experiments have clarified the picture. Scientists settled on two options: acidification of the soil and agrotechnical or trench-hole.


    The principle of the first method is to introduce acid into the soil, to get rid of harmful salts to the entire arable depth (sometimes this depth reaches a meter).


   The second way is to create growth conditions for the plant for the initial period of development. To do this, a trench is laid to a certain depth in a highly saline area. Then it is covered with ordinary or slightly saline soil.

In trenches or holes prepared in this way, the desired crop is planted. For plants, something like “life stripes” is created.


   Only fifteen or twenty minutes of the journey - and before us appears a picture of renewal, the revival of life on the salt marshes. And although you are prepared to meet her, you are involuntarily overcome by a feeling of joyful surprise, I would say, relief: life again! Gardens, vineyards.

   “Our experimental plots,” Grant Petrovich explains, “have been bearing fruit for several years now. And the harvests, I must say, are quite good. We test up to forty types of agricultural crops: fruits, grapes, cereals, vegetables, row crops. Our wheat harvest exceeds thirty centners per hectare. The beets also showed themselves perfectly. If we take the sugar content, then its percentage in beets reaches almost thirty, and in an ordinary field the sugar content does not exceed eighteen percent. Gourds go well with us - watermelons, melons, vegetables. A good harvest is given by a vine and fruit. And one more curious detail: local grapes ripen much earlier than usual.


   In a word, the Institute, by its activities, proved the practical expediency of the development of solonchaks.


   Works in this direction are important not only for Armenia. Experts are well aware of this. After all, ten percent of the entire territory of our country has been excluded from land use as salt marshes. The experience of Armenian soil scientists, undoubtedly, could be useful in other republics, especially in Central Asia, where the percentage of soil salinity is very high.

People and sky of Yerevan / G.S. Baghrazyan

The year of publishing  1975

Yerevan: Hayastan

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