CHICAGO Midday weather maps indicated a better chance for rains during the last two weeks of August in the drought-stricken U.S. Midwest, but they will come too late to provide much help to corn or soybean prospects, an agricultural meteorologist forecast Wednesday.
Meteorologists and crop experts have said that the domestic corn crop was harmed beyond repair from the worst drought in more than 50 years over the summer, and much of the soybean crop was damaged as well.
"There is a chance for quite a lot more rain in the 6- to 10-day and 11- to 15-day forecast, but confidence is low," said Don Keeney, meteorologist for MDA EarthSat Weather.
Keeney said that next week and the following week had the potential for 0.50 up to 1.5 inches or more rain in the central and southern Midwest.
Additionally, the midday weather maps indicated a little more rain for the U.S. Delta crop region than earlier weather maps had indicated.
"It's not going to get a whole lot worse, some areas will get some help and others not," said Andy Karst, a meteorologist for World Weather Inc.
Frequent rains of 0.50 to 0.60 inch, with up to 1.00 inch in some areas, were expected Wednesday through Friday in 85 to 90 percent of the Midwest, and cooler temperatures with highs in the 70s to 80s degrees Fahrenheit were forecast, Karst said.
"The weather shouldn't be terrible for crops, but we're on the edge with a moisture deficit because we still haven't had soaking rains," he said. "It will be drier over the weekend and early next week, with the next chance of rain at midweek, and that will be important," Karst said.
Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Wednesday said light showers early in the week were too sparse to ease drought stress in the Midwest.
"In fact, the portion of the Midwest under stress could still expand by up to 10 percent from the current 35 percent over the next week," CWG meteorologist Joel Widenor said.
Rains will increase over the next two weeks in the U.S. Delta, a lush crop region in the lower Mississippi River basin, which will ease some late-season drought stress on soybeans, according to CWG.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly crop progress report released on Monday showed that domestic corn conditions stabilized 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 takes its toll, investors have gone on a buying spree, boosting corn prices more than 50 percent from late May to record highs above $8 per bushel.
The USDA last Friday released data showing deep cuts for this year's corn and soybean output as the drought spread through America's bread basket.
The agency said the 2012 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 at a 17-year low. Soybean production was forecast at a five-year low and soy yield per acre at nearly a 10-year low.
Analysts and crop experts said additional cuts may be seen in future reports.
(Reporting By Sam Nelson)