* No relief seen from drought in Plains
* Western Midwest also too dry
* Cold air likely caused minimal damage to wheat
By Sam Nelson
CHICAGO, Jan 24 Dry weather remains a concern in
the U.S. Plains hard red winter wheat region while this week's
blast of Arctic air likely caused no winterkill or harm to the
soft red winter wheat crop in the Midwest, an agricultural
meteorologist said on Thursday.
"There will be some light rain this week in wheat country
but it will miss the driest areas in the west," said Andy Karst,
meteorologist for World Weather Inc.
Karst said there were no signs of drought-relieving rain or
snow soon in the U.S. Plains or in the western Midwest.
Commodity Weather Group (CWG) meteorologist Joel Widenor
said showers would reach about half of the Plains wheat by early
next week and some light rain and snow was expected in the
"This will bring some slight improvements in soil moisture,
but amounts will generally average a half inch or less," Widenor
said. "Drier weather then returns, and significant drought
relief is unlikely."
Last week's U.S. drought monitor showed some relief brought
on by showers in portions of the United States, but the drought
expanded in parts of the U.S. Plains.
Nearly 60 percent of the contiguous United States was in at
least "moderate" drought as of Jan. 15, according to the drought
Officials in north-central Oklahoma declared a state of
emergency due to record-low reservoir conditions. Public and
private interests throughout the central United States hardest
hit by drought were examining measures to try to cope with
The government this month declared much of the central and
southern U.S. Wheat Belt a natural disaster area due to
persistent drought threatening the winter wheat harvest.
In its first disaster declaration of the new year, the U.S
Department of Agriculture made growers in large portions of four
major wheat-growing states - Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and
Texas - eligible for low-interest emergency loans.
Dry weather accompanied a blast of bitter cold Arctic air
this week in the northern and northeastern U.S., away from the
big winter wheat growing areas of the Plains and roughly the
southern half of the Midwest.
Cold temperatures this week caused minimal if any harm to
the winter wheat crop, Karst said.
"It got into the single digits, which wasn't low enough to
hurt any of the soft red winter crop and the zero readings were
north of the wheat growing areas," Karst said.
Widenor said temperatures remain just above damage
thresholds at the moment.
(Reporting By Sam Nelson)