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Little relief seen from U.S. drought despite cooler trend
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Midday weather maps indicate drier conditions this week for the already drought-stricken U.S. crop region than earlier forecasts had shown, an agricultural meteorologist said on Tuesday.
"The big thing is less rain from the Plains into the Delta, basically the mid-South. It now looks dry for the Delta while earlier indications were for up to 0.50 inch," said Drew Lerner, a meteorologist for World Weather Inc.
The U.S. Delta, located roughly in the lower Mississippi River Valley basin, is a lush farming region known for large areas of soybean, cotton and rice production.
Lerner said roughly a half inch of rain was now expected later this week in the drought-stricken Plains where early outlooks had indicated downpours of up to 2.0 to 4.0 inches in states such as Oklahoma and south central Kansas.
For the balance of the Midwest corn- and soybean-growing area, cooler and damper weather in the U.S. crop belt over the next week will slow further deterioration from the summer stress of the worst drought in more than a half century.
"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 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.
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 USDA on Friday released data showing deep cuts for this year's corn and soybean output as the drought spread through America's breadbasket.
The 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.
(Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Dale Hudson)
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