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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Science of the Week

The New York Botanical Garden has just carved and displayed the world’s largest pumpkin. The pumpkin weighs 1,811 pounds, or 10 pounds less than the entire cast of “Thintervention With Jackie Warner.”

Scientists have been trying to figure out what allows these super pumpkins, grown from Atlantic giant pumpkin seeds, to get so large. The answer, recently discovered from the use of computer models, is stress. The computer models were created during the most fun laboratory experiment ever conducted. Pumpkins at various stages of growth were placed in a giant compactor, and were then compressed until they miraculously exploded in a cloud of pumpkin pulp and gore.

Using the models, scientists deduced that once the pumpkins reach about 220 pounds, their own weight causes the pumpkin to stretch and bend, which in turn causes the cells that make up the outer shell to tear and pull apart.

Sites of damage and stress are where the most cellular genesis and repair occur. The process becomes circular; the bigger the pumpkin gets, the more stress the cells endure, causing the pumpkin to grow even further out. These giant pumpkins can grow up to 50 pounds a day without bursting.

Farmers must find a delicate balance between final size of the pumpkin and growth rate. If the pumpkin grows too fast, it will collapse under its own weight. However, the pumpkin must also grow fast enough to be at final size within the ideal growing period.

Fun fact: The record-breaking pumpkin has enough material to make about 160 pumpkin pies. That does not include the 110 pounds of seeds.

– Hudson Lofchie

For more science snippets follow Hudson on Twitter: @HudtacularSci.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, how do you decorate with an 1,800-pound pumpkin? I’m afraid it won’t fit on our porch. Good luck with the pies.

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