It is not a prank: watermelons have been exploding due to a chemical that farmers in the Jiangsu province used to increase the size of their crops. The incident even got national coverage as the Chinese government is attempting to improve food safety standards across the country following numerous deadly scandals.
Forchlorfenuron, the incriminated hormone, is used to promote plant cell division and lateral growth. According to the American Environmental Protection Agency which registered the chemical in 2004, it could find a niche for kiwi fruits, table grapes and raisin grapes.
The watermelons explosion is a reminder of China’s overuse of fertilizers and of their limits. The consumption of nitrogen fertilizers almost doubled in the past two decades while grain production increased by just 22%.