Drought-bruised U.S. crops get minor relief from cool snap

Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:12pm IST

* Cooler, damper weather slows crop deterioration

* Corn crop harmed beyond repair, minor relief to soy

* U.S. Plains to get welcome rains this week

By Sam Nelson

CHICAGO, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Cooler and damper weather in the U.S. crop belt over the next week will slow further deterioration of corn and soybeans from the summer stress of the worst drought in more than a half century, an agricultural meteorologist said on Tuesday.

"Corn is too far gone to help at all but some of the northern soybeans may be helped, but the beans in the central and south are too stressed to come back," said Don Keeney, a meteorologist for MDA EarthSat Weather.

Keeney said up to 60 percent of the U.S. Midwest should receive from 0.25 inch to 1.00 inch of rain this week and the U.S. Plains states should receive a welcome 0.30 inch to 1.00 inch as well.

Cooler weather is in the cards for the next 10 days with highs in the 70s (degrees Fahrenheit) and 80s F rather than the relentless 90s F and 100s F that had been slashing crop prospects, Keeney said.

"It's going to be fall-like weather for the next 10 days. There is a warm-up again in the 11- to 15-day forecast but not the heat we've seen all summer," Keeney said.

Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Tuesday said half of the Midwest would receive scattered showers but dry spots would likely expand from 30 percent of the Midwest currently to at least 40 percent over the next week.

"This will include parts of central Illinois, western Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and southern Wisconsin," said CWG meteorologist Joel Widenor.

"Expanding rains in the Plains and Delta will help to improve pre-planting moisture for winter wheat areas and will also ease stress on double-crop Delta soybeans," he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly crop progress report released on Monday showed the U.S. corn conditions stabilizing after nine weeks of ratings declines and the soybean crop conditions increased slightly.

However, the ratings for each crop remained at their lowest levels since the last serious drought in 1988.

As the worst drought in more than a half century took its toll, investors went on a buying spree, boosting corn prices more than 50 percent from late May to record highs above $8 per bushel.

The market was higher again on Tuesday after a brief setback from record highs.

USDA on Friday released data showing deep cuts for this year's corn and soybean output as the drought spread through America's breadbasket.

USDA said this year's corn crop would fall below 11.0 billion bushels for the first time in six years and the number of bushels yielded per acre was a 17-year low. Soybean production was forecast at a five-year low and soy yield per acre nearly a 10-year low.

Analysts and crop experts said additional cuts may be seen in future reports. (Reporting By Sam Nelson; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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