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Vine in the desert. Armenia Today magazine, A. Manukyan, №2(64), 1981


Grant PETROSYAN: It took two decades until we managed to find something to “drop” on the salt marsh. But we set ourselves the goal not only to find our own methodology and implement it at the experimental level, but to work out the entire technological chain from salt marsh to wheat ear or grape bunch.

    How to deal with soil salinity? This problem is as old as the culture of agriculture itself. It has always and relentlessly pursued humanity, occupied the minds of millions of people, hundreds of generations.

   Science testifies that one of the reasons for the death of the ancient state of Mesopotamia - Babylonia - was the catastrophically rapid salinization of the soil as a result of some complex subsoil processes that have not yet been fully elucidated. Soil salinity appeared where irrigation was applied. It was, as it were, a companion of cultivated agriculture.

   Needless to say, soil salinity causes enormous damage to cultural agriculture. Moreover, their area is growing over the years. And so the fight against soil salinity  is the No. 1 problem for soil scientists around the world. However, what are salt marshes?

    For this, let's move to Armenia, to the fertile Ararat plain. It impresses with its generosity: the lush flowering of orchards and vineyards, and in autumn it pleases with delicious fruits, sweet grapes. You can drive along this edge for an hour, two, three, and gardens, vineyards, melons will accompany us all the time. They stretch on both sides of the road.

   - What a blessing! - will involuntarily break out from you. And it is absolutely impossible to imagine that in the very heart of this green flood you can meet ... a desert .. And what a desert! Over 30 thousand hectares of fertile lands are "killed" by salts. 30,000 hectares for a small land-poor republic is quite a vast territory.

   However, people could not and did not come to terms with such injustice. Scientists have declared war on salt marshes, firmly resolved to bring the dead lands back to life. Soil scientists of Armenia also contribute to this noble cause...

    Our path lies to the experimental sites of the Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry. We are going together with the director of the institute Grant Petrosyan.      The professor, together with his colleagues, has been dealing with the issues of “revitalization” of saline lands for many years.

   In our age of great discoveries, we all expect a miracle from science - fast and effective. But there are no miracles in the world. They are all the more excluded by soil scientists, who have to work in vast natural laboratories spread over hundreds of hectares.

The fight against soil salinization is a delicate and complex matter. This should especially be said about the Armenian salt marshes, the so-called alkaline or soda, the most malicious, heavy types.

    Just ten or fifteen minutes of travel and before us appears a picture of renewal, the revival of life. And although we are prepared to meet her, we are involuntarily seized by a feeling of joyful surprise, I would say relief: life again! Orchards, vineyards, melons.

   ...Our experimental plots, - explains Grant Petrosyan, - have been bearing fruit for several years already. The yields are quite good. We test up to 40 types of agricultural crops: fruit, grapes, cereals, vegetables, fodder grasses. Our wheat harvest exceeds thirty centners per hectare. Gourds go well - watermelons and melons. And one more curious detail - our grapes ripen earlier than usual. In the sidelines are even rows of powerful green bushes raised on a trellis. This is a dwarf pear garden. Undersized trees are literally hung with large fruits, some specimens of which weigh at least 100-500 grams.

   The works of Armenian soil scientists have successfully passed the test not only in experimental plots, but also in collective farm fields. Dozens of hectares of salt marshes have been developed in the villages of Vardanashen and Markara of the Hoktemberyan and Mugan regions of Artashat. For several years in a row, collective farmers have been harvesting high yields of wheat, watermelons, and growing fodder grasses here.

    In a word, victory! But the road to it was very long and difficult.

    A few words about the history of the case.

   First of all, let's understand how so many salts can accumulate in the soil, which then lead the plant to death? The main culprit for this is groundwater. It all starts with the fact that part of the precipitation in the form of water seeps into the soil. Having reached the waterproof layer, moisture naturally lingers. And if the process takes place in a mountainous area, then it tends down into the valleys.

   Thus, if the water does not find a way out, it accumulates in the soil of the lowlands; this process does not stop, water keeps coming. Under the pressure of the lower layers, it rises through the capillaries to the surface. Together with water, dissolved salts also rise to the upper layers of the soil. Here the water is met by strong winds, hot sun. They do their job, the water evaporates quickly, and the salts remain. Over the years, salt accumulates more and more, it even comes out on the surface of the earth. And grow a stump. caught in the radius of salinity, perish. Simply put, salt suffocates plants.

    Soil scientists of the republic were faced with the task of finding a rational method for the development of such heavy solonchaks.

    Many went to this, went the difficult paths of search.

    Lots of experiments, countless options. And finally, the key to success is in the hands: chemical products were used to exfoliate the soil, in particular, sulfuric acid and iron sulfate. How it's done? In short, we can say that the earth is watered with dilute sulfuric acid. And with iron sulphate it is even easier - it is evenly scattered over the site, and then water is given. For this purpose, spent sulfuric acid is used to waste iron sulphate residues. In other words, the waste that chemical plants reject, go down the drain, poison water bodies and soil, is now beneficial.

    So, the Institute has proved the practical expediency of the development of solonchaks. A large land reclamation trust has been organized in the republic. Already

the first thousand hectares of such lands have been restored. And now, when you get to these plots, you see the dense greenery of the crops and the timid shoots of young seedlings, you see how the vine stirs its leaves in the wind, you can’t help but remember the ancient fairy tale about the dead earth and the magician who returned joy to people.


   The affairs of Armenian soil scientists are known not only to Soviet, but also to foreign colleagues. At the request of the International Society of Soil Scientists, international  

symposiums on the issues of soil reclamation with soda salinity, in which representatives of more than 30 countries of the world took part. Such interest in the works of Armenian scientists is not accidental. Their experience is very instructive and can be successfully applied in other countries.


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