Watermelons in eastern China have been bursting open, covering the fields after farmers gave them an overdose of growth chemicals during wet weather, creating what’s been called “fields of land mines.”
About 20 farmers around Danyang city in Jiangsu province were affected, losing up to 115 acres of watermelons. What is Forchlorfenuron?
According to the U.S. EPA, “Forchlorfenuron is a cytokin which improves fruit size, fruit set, cluster weight and cold storage in grapes in kiwifruits.”
Wang Liangju, a professor with the College of Horticulture at Nanjing Agricultural University who was in Danyang when the problems began to occur, believes the chemical is safe when used properly. He told The Associated Press that the drug had been used too late in the season when heavy rain activity raised the risk of the fruit exploding. He also believes the variety of melon played a role. “If it had been used on very young fruit, it wouldn’t be a problem,” Wang said. He added, “Another reason [for the problem] is that the melon they were planting is a thin-rind variety and these kind are actually nicknamed the ‘exploding melon’ because they tend to split,” he said.
Chinese regulations don’t forbid the use of the drug, and it’s allowed in the United States on kiwi fruit and grapes, but it’s been reported that many farmers in China are abusing both legal and illegal chemicals, with many farms misusing pesticides and fertilizers.