Chemical-Infused Watermelons Explode in China

Using too much growth hormone has caused many Chinese farmers’ watermelon crops to “explode” in the fields. From CBS News:

Watermelons have been bursting by the score in eastern China after farmers gave them overdoses of growth chemicals during wet weather, creating what state media called fields of “land mines.”

About 20 farmers around Danyang city in Jiangsu province were affected, losing up to 115 acres of melon, China Central Television said in an investigative report.

Prices over the past year prompted many farmers to jump into the watermelon market. All of those with exploding melons apparently were first-time users of the growth accelerator forchlorfenuron, though it has been widely available for some time, CCTV said.

Chinese regulations don’t forbid the drug, and it is allowed in the U.S. on kiwi fruit and grapes. But the report underscores how farmers in China are abusing both legal and illegal chemicals, with many farms misusing pesticides and fertilizers.

Xinhua is reporting that these Chinese watermelon explosions are occuring from a combination of chemicals and weather. From Xinhua:

Agriculture experts believe that the problem is caused by multiple factors such as the use of forchlorfenuron and sudden heavy rainfall after a long period of dry weather after checking 10 watermelons producers’ land in the village.

Only one of the 10 producers, Liu Mingsuo, used forchlorfenuron. The timing was wrong, as he put it on too late in the season, said Wang Liangju, professor with Nanjing Agriculture University.

The instant calcium he applied could not be blamed as it prevents melons from bursting, said Wang.

However, farmers who did not use forchlorfenuron said they had also suffered from the same problem.

Wang said heavy rainfall had followed a dry-spell, and that was when most of the watermelons burst.

More watermelons had burst on the low-lying fields with rain water ponds, said Wang.

It is normal for about 10 percent of watermelons to burst, said Xu Jinhua, with the Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences. “The bursting rate often has something to do with the melon variety, weather, and so on,” said Xu.

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