Chinese farmers have been using a fertilizer on watermelon which contains a chemical called forchlorfenuron. The result? Twenty percent bigger melons! And they would grow much faster.
Obviously if it sounds too good to be true, and you are tossing a chemical in the mix to get these results, then things are going to turn bad.
Indeed, the melons were cracking in half and bursting open. More white seeds, instead of black seeds, were present.
The taste and texture was different as well. While Forchlorfenuron had been considered safe as it has been used in fertilizers since the 1980s, Cui Jian, who is the Director of the Vegetable Research Institute at the Qingdao Academy of Agricultural Science, is someone who is in major disagreement with this thinking. Using plant hormone chemicals on them is not a great idea at all since watermelons are so sensitive.
In the U.S., forchlorfenuron-based fertilizers are indeed used to grow kiwifruit and grapes. The EPA states that this chemical should only be used on plants during the early stages of growth. They also throw in there that forchlorfenuron is toxic to animals. Even more studies have actually linked it to increased hair loss, decreased litter sizes, reduced birth weight, and increased mortality in young animals!
Nasty stuff and if you ever see an extra large melon cracked open as such, it’s likely been assisted in it’s developement by a forchlorfenuron-based fertilizer.