Recently, there have been strange cases of exploding watermelons in eastern China after farmers injected an overdose of growth chemicals during wet weather in order to make them bigger and more profitable. The farmers injected their watermelons with forchlorfenuron, a cytokine which improves the fruit size, cluster weight and cold storage in grapes and kiwifruits.
In total, 20 farmers and their produce were affected by the substance, losing about 115 acres of watermelons.
Professor Wang Liangju who works at the College of Horticulture at Nanjing Agricultural University and was in the Danyang province when the phenomenon started, believes that forchlorfenuron is safe for use if being used properly. In an interview with The Associated Press he said that the problem occurred because the substance has been used late in the season when heavy rain was falling down, increasing the risk of the fruit exploding. According to professor Liangju, “If it had been used on very young fruit, it wouldn’t be a problem. 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.
The Chinese law doesn’t forbid the use of forchlorfenuron, and the substance is also allowed in the USA for use on kiwi and grapes. However, there are reports that many Chinese farmers are abusing illegal and legal chemicals, with many of the farms improperly using fertilizers and pesticides.