26 Feb, 2021

ATP Empowers Farmers and Future Agriculturalists with Knowledge and Skills

ATP’s tree nurseries not only produce seedlings for ATP’s nation-wide planting programs, but also serve as centers where the necessary technical knowledge and skills to improve the overall propagation and quality of trees produced in Armenia are provided to both experienced and new agriculturalists.

A central location for trainings is Karin Nursery in the Aragatsotn province, where ATP hosts dozens of Agrarian University students and professionals each year. Here,   students have the opportunity to close the gap between theory and practice.

Most recently a group of farmers from the Tavush province visited Karin Nursery to experience winter fruit tree grafting, a practice that is not common in Armenia due to the lack of facilities and proper equipment.

In 2020, the Bilezikian Grafting Facility was added to the Karin nursery complex. The facility led to significant advancements in ATP’s methods of fruit tree propagation, and contributed to the country’s overall knowledge as well, as such facilities are few. 

Visits to the facility are tailored to specific areas of interest.  During the Tavush farmers’ visit, learning about winter grafting of persimmon and pear trees species was important, as the farmers are specialized in the cultivation of these species in their hometowns. The group visit was organized by CARD Foundation within the frames of the “Rural economic development-New Economic opportunities” program, financed by USAID Armenia. The main goal of the program is to make high-quality services and inputs available to fruit growers.

“Coming here and seeing this place, you realize that no matter how much you already know you can still learn more ,” says one of the visitors Seroj Mirzoyan, who’s spent his entire life growing vegetables and fruit trees in Aknaghbyur village.

ATP’s nursery staff, who have spent the past 26 years mastering the art of tree propagation,  agree. With a changing global climate, innovation in agriculture and approaches to knowledge exchange and learning are rapidly evolving. Everybody involved in farming, advising, research, training and education is facing a number of challenges in order to adjust.

“It’s my first time seeing a nursery of this kind, with such high standards,” says Sergey Galstyan, another one of the visiting farmers from Tavush. “There are species we’ve searched for throughout the years and haven’t found. As it turned out today, they were under our noses all along and we were trying to acquire them from abroad somehow, but these people have already made that possible. This is a very serious operation. I’m very impressed.”

Among the many species available, ATP is also propagating dwarf tree species, which are in high demand among farmers, because of  the advantages they offer over regular fruit trees. ATP is adding whatever is  necessary to its catalogue of trees to support the Armenian farmer, as well as the reforestation efforts of Armenia.

Experts agree Armenia’s current nursery capacity and trained specialists are insufficient for meeting its goals of doubling the forest cover by 2050, for which an estimated 500 million seedlings are needed.  In response to that, ATP and the National Agrarian University partnered up to address this capacity building issue. Students from the university conduct internships and field research at ATP’s nurseries and greenhouses.

Slava Nazaryan, a student from the Armenian National Agrarian University, after a visit to Karin Nursery for grafting practice, said, “One of the things that caught my attention was that each rootstock was washed carefully and disinfected in manganese solution before being grafted and stored. This is a very important factor, which is often overlooked by nursery owners.”

“Our tree propagation and planting formula has proven to be successful with a higher than average survival rate. We mean to share our knowledge and spread awareness about national as well as international best practices that can be adapted in Armenia to ensure that trees are planted thoughtfully, with careful consideration of several factors and the long-term in mind,” says ATP Operations Manager Arthur Harutyunyan. 

ATP propagates nearly 55 different species of endemic and adapted trees, using a mix of the latest technologies and traditional local practices. Its nurseries are enriched with greenhouses, different drip irrigation systems, protective netting, and more. The fields are laid out according to carefully designed plot maps, created with the best outcome of tree quality in mind.

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Armenia Tree Project, established in 1994, is a non-profit organization that revitalizes Armenia’s and Artsakh’s most vulnerable communities through tree-planting initiatives, and provides socio-economic support and growth. It is based in Yerevan, Armenia and has an office in Woburn, Massachusetts. For more information, please visit ArmeniaTree.org