U.S. crops wilting despite scattered Midwest rains

CHICAGO Sat Jul 14, 2012 1:29pm EDT

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Scattered rains over the last 24 hours provided little relief for U.S. Midwest corn and soybean crops that are rapidly deteriorating in the worst drought since 1988, and the forecast is for scant rain for the next two weeks, meteorologists said on Saturday.

"Overall the rain yesterday won't put a dent in the drought because they were spotty hit or miss kind of rains. Certainly some isolated areas will benefit, but it was not a significant drought buster," said AccuWeather meteorologist Dan Pydynowski.

Thunderstorms on Friday left from 0.25 inch to 0.50 inch of rain in portions of eastern Iowa and northern Illinois, including Chicago, with isolated amounts up to one inch, meteorologists said.

There were similar showers of "0.25 inch or so" in portions of parched southern Indiana and southern Illinois, Pydynowski said.

Some showers were expected in the Midwest from Saturday through the end of next week, MDA EarthSat Weather meteorologist Steve Silver said. But the minimal amount of rain accompanied by high temperatures will continue to stress crops.

"There won't be enough rain to dent the drought," Silver said.

Only about 25 percent of the Midwest received some rain on Friday with most of the moisture in Wisconsin, Minnesota, eastern Iowa, northeast Missouri and a few spots in central and northern Illinois, said Joel Widenor, meteorologist for Commodity Weather Group (CWG).

"There was some local relief and about 20 to 25 percent of the Midwest will see similar rains during the next 1 to 5 days," Widenor said.

Meteorologists agreed that the combination of high temperatures and minimal rainfall will continue to erode production prospects for the 2012 corn and soybean crops.

"The general pattern is still hot and dry, especially in the west half of the Midwest. High temperatures in the west will reach the 90s (degrees Fahrenheit) to 100s during the next week and the low to mid-90s in the east," Widenor said.

Drought and heat led the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday to slash its U.S. corn production forecast to 12.970 billion bushels, down from its previous outlook for 14.790 billion.

USDA on Monday dropped its estimate for U.S. corn good-to-excellent condition rating to 40 percent from the previous 48 percent. Traders expect USDA to show a similar decline in updated weekly crop progress data this Monday, including a decline in soybean conditions.

The worst drought in a quarter century tightened its grip on the Midwestern United States over the past week, a report from climate experts said Thursday.

Nearly two-thirds of the nine-state Midwest region was in some stage of drought in the week ended July 10, up from just over 50 percent a week earlier, according to the Drought Monitor, a weekly report on drought throughout the country compiled by U.S. climate experts.

A third of the region was in severe to exceptional drought, up from about a quarter of the region a week earlier, it said.

(Reporting By Sam Nelson; Editing by Greg McCune and Vicki Allen)

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