* Corn plants vulnerable to harm due to drought
* Winds, heavy rains may hurt some of the crop
* Arkansas rice farmers raced to harvest ahead of Isaac
By Sam Nelson
CHICAGO, Aug 31 Rain and wind from the remnants
of Hurricane Isaac are expected to move into the central U.S.
Midwest on Friday and into the weekend, stalling crop harvests
and causing some localized damage, an agricultural meteorologist
Isaac continued to cause headaches, bringing heavy rainfall
and the threat of flash flooding to the lower Mississippi Valley
as Gulf Coast residents prepared to start their cleanup efforts.
Before Isaac slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast on Wednesday,
the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said 6 percent of the
country's corn crop had been harvested and 8 percent of the
soybean crop was dropping leaves, ready for harvest.
"Certainly it will slow harvest and some of the corn crop
could be hurt. The stalks are fragile and brittle," Don Keeney,
meteorologist for MDA EarthSat Weather, said.
Corn plants already had been weakened and yields slashed by
the stress from the worst drought in America's heartland in more
than 50 years. Much of the crop was pushed to maturity and is
set to be harvested as it is more vulnerable than normal to harm
from wind and rain.
Keeney said 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) of rain with locally
heavier amounts could be expected in a broad swath from eastern
Missouri through Illinois, Indiana and into Ohio with winds of
10 to 15 miles per hour (16 to 24 km per hour) and heavier
Rainfall late on Thursday moved into the rice-harvesting
region of Arkansas, the largest U.S. rice producer.
"They had heavy rains of 1 to 3 inches or more in the
central and south and that has moved north now. There was some
damage but I don't think there were any major catastrophic
losses," Keeney said.
Rain from the lumbering hurricane moved across the lush crop
region of the U.S. Deep South, known as the Delta, into the
Large soybean, cotton and rice crops are grown in the South,
while corn and soybeans are produced in the Midwest.
Before the storm hit, the Louisiana soybean harvest was 18
percent complete, Mississippi's 9 percent and Arkansas' 8
percent, according to U.S. government crop reports.
Arkansas farmers were harvesting at a breakneck pace on
Thursday in an attempt to gather as much as possible before the
storm blanketed their mature crop.
Crop experts and farmers said the rice heads were heavy and
full of grain, leaving the crop vulnerable to harm if it blew
over and rendering it difficult or impossible to harvest.
(Editing by Dale Hudson)