Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Farming for fun and profit - and explosions???

I'm amused to read about an agricultural problem of which I'd never heard before.

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 (45 hectares) 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 fertilisers.

Wang Liangju, a professor with College of Horticulture at Nanjing Agricultural University who has been to Danyang since the problems began to occur, said that forchlorfenuron is safe and effective when used properly.

He told The Associated Press that the drug had been used too late into the season, and that recent heavy rain also raised the risk of the fruit cracking open. But he said the variety of melon also played a role.

‘If it had been used on very young fruit, it wouldn't be a problem,’ Wang said. ‘Another reason 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.’

Farmer Liu Mingsuo ended up with eight acres (three hectares) of ruined fruit and told CCTV that seeing his crop splitting open was like a knife cutting his heart.

‘On May 7, I came out and counted 80 (burst watermelons) but by the afternoon it was 100,’ Liu said. ‘Two days later I didn't bother to count anymore.’

Intact watermelons were being sold at a wholesale market in nearby Shanghai, the report said, but even those ones showed telltale signs of forchlorfenuron use: fibrous, misshapen fruit with mostly white instead of black seeds.

There's more at the link.

Exploding watermelons? Could that lead to sour grapes for the farmers as well?



Anonymous said...

That's why I grow my food organically--don't have to worry about stupid stuff like that! And would anyone *knowingly* want to eat the chemical that caused those watermelons to do that?


Chris said...

R. Lee Ermey will either be fascinated or appalled.