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July 1, 2011

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Blame the weather for split fruit, say experts

EXTREME weather - not the use of growth promoters - is to blame for fruit splitting in local farms and orchards, agricultural experts insisted yesterday.

The explanation aims to dispel rumors among local residents that the higher incidence of fruit splitting on the branch or vine is related to plant hormone use.

Suburban growers recently reported up to half of their produce, including pears and blueberries, splitting.

About half of the blueberries in the Pujiang Blueberry Orchard split, said growers.

The phenomenon has led to public concerns over fruit safety, with many people believing it might result from the use of a plant hormone used to stimulate fruit growth.

Its use is believed to be behind the "exploding watermelons" reported in Jiangsu Province in May.

But fruit researchers from the Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences said local fruit splitting is due to abnormal weather over the past month.

Ye Zhengwen, a researcher at the academy, said the percentage of fruit splitting this year is higher than the average figure of 5 to 10 percent.

For part of June, the temperature difference was unseasonably wide, with highs of 35 degrees Celsius and lows of 20 degrees.

And after dry weather in early June, rain lasted for around 10 days. The sharp change caused fruit pulp to expand quickly, splitting the skin, said Ye.

He said cracked fruit could still be eaten if it is ripe.

However, some consumers remain unconvinced.

"Who knows whether it is naturally splitting or not, said Yang Lingfeng, a local housewife.

"To avoid fruit treated with plant hormones, I won't buy fruit with cracks," she said.


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