Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Watermelon Explosion

   Gallagher would be in heaven.  Or maybe it is his hell, I don't know.  But if he were to travel to the Chinese province of Jiangsu, he would find a watermelon explosion of epic proportions.
     Oh wait, did I say "watermelon explosion?"  My mistake, I meant to say "exploding watermelons."  That is right, the fields and greenhouses of China are alive with the sound of exploding fruit.  It looks as if hundreds of mischevious youths have sneaked in with a truckload of fireworks as melon after melon have split open with their gooey fruit spilling all over the place.  Chinese state media have said that the problem is creating fields of "land mines" but I think my biggest worry would not be so much the actualy explosion of the watermelons but the high velocity little seeds that must be whizzing out of the things.  It would be like being under small arms fire or something if one of those things exploded near you.
    Okay, okay.  All joking aside these watermelons are exploding, but it is not like a violent, dangerous type of explosion.  They are more like cracking open and spilling their guts all over the place.  You can get a good idea of the sense and the scale by looking at the photo below, which came from Sign On San Diego via the Associated Press.

What it would have looked like if Gallagher used an axe instead of a
big sledge hammer.
     So as you can see the melons are just sort of splitting open, and they are ruining acres and acres of crops and destroying the incomes of many farmers.  Officials are at somewhat of a loss as to why these melons are behaving, although the likely culprit is a growth-promoting chemical called forchlorfenuron that is being used to make the melons grow larger.  Although there is some discrepency regarding what melons are exploding because some people who have not used the chemicals have had problems, here is how the folks invesitgating things think all this is going down:

1.) Watermelon prices in China (and maybe worldwide, I don't know) spiked last year, which led to lots of Chinese farmers jumping into the watermelon game wh had never grown watermelons

2.) Many of these growers used imported seeds, and many of them used forchlorfurfenuron (it is legal in China; it is legal in the US too but only on kiwi and grapes) but since they were inexperienced they used it at the incorrect time or in incorrect amounts in an effort to increase profits and yield

3.) It was an exceptionally wet spring

4.) Most of them were using the chemical on a variety of melon known to have a very thin rind that was actually nicknamed "exploding melon" before all this shit happened.

Add this all together and you get the story of farmer Liu Mingsuo, who said "On May 7, I came out and counted 80 (burst watermelons) but by the afternoon it was 100. Two days later I didn't bother to count anymore."  Some melons - the ones that survive - are being sold at markets but a fibrous, misshapen, with mostly white seeds, all telltale signs of forchlorfenuron use.  Many farmers have resorted to chopping up the melons for food for fish and pigs and other animals.
An elderly Gallagher
might like these melons.
    And so watermelon growing has gone to the dogs.  Literally.  And that is sad, because most of these guys probably would have made a haul just doing it the honest way, but such is life.  I am upset because they have missed a prime opportunity to make at least some money off of their misfortune.  See, Gallagher isn't getting any younger, and the sledge hammer isn't getting any smaller, and the melons aren't getting any less smash-resistent.  So maybe these farmers should have sold some of these messed up melons to the guy.  Turn the open part away from the audience and he wouldn't have to work so hard to smash the hell out of them.  Either that or get one that hasn't exploded yet and let nature (or chemistry I suppose) do the work.  I am a genius.  Someone get China on the phone...

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