BEIJING — 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 United States 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.
Wang Liangju, a professor with College of Horticulture at Nanjing Agricultural University, said that forchlorfenuron is safe and effective when used properly.
He said that the drug had been applied too late in the season and that recent heavy rain also raised the risk of the fruit cracking open.
Farmer Liu Mingsuo ended up with 8 acres 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.’’
In March of last year, Chinese authorities found that “yard-long’’ beans from the city of Sanya had been treated with the banned pesticide isocarbophos.