* Warm up and rapid plantings seen by mid-April
* Drought stress to continue in U.S. Southwest
By Sam Nelson
CHICAGO, April 4 Cold and wet weather in the
U.S. Midwest and much of the Plains will continue to slow spring
fieldwork and early corn plantings while dry weather will
continue to stress wheat and grazing lands in the far Southwest
Plains, an agricultural meteorologist said on Thursday.
"Temperatures will remain cold and it definitely will keep
soil temperatures low, so plantings will remain behind normal,"
said Don Keeney, a meteorologist for MDA Weather Services.
Keeney said temperatures would warm up dramatically by
mid-April, which will allow rapid corn plantings and will boost
growth of the U.S. winter wheat crop.
"Most of the east-central Plains and western Midwest will
receive rains next week," he said. However, it will remain dry
in the far southwest Plains. "Not a lot of rain the next two
weeks for the southwest ... Texas and southwest Oklahoma will
remain dry," Keeney said.
Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Thursday said at least the
southwestern quarter of the Plains wheat belt is still expected
to remain dry and drought-stress would continue.
The worst drought in more than 50 years has left the U.S.
Plains wheat crop struggling against dry soils. Rains now will
help the crop get off to a better start following its break from
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its weekly crop
progress report released on Monday that 34 percent of the winter
wheat crop was in good to excellent condition, down from 58
percent in that category a year ago.
Winter wheat is off to its worst start in early April in 11
years, hobbled by low soil moisture in the southern Plains, even
as storms in recent weeks brought precipitation to a few areas.
Corn planting expanded in a few southern states, although
soil temperatures in the core states of Iowa and Illinois remain
too cold for seeding, the USDA said.
Keeney said that as of March 23, 6 to 8 inches of rain were
needed to bring soil moisture levels back to normal in much of
eastern Nebraska and a corner of northeast Kansas, while 2
inches to 4 inches were needed in the balance of the central
Plains and western Iowa. Soil moisture levels had returned to
normal in an area from eastern Iowa and Missouri eastward.
Recent snowstorms and rainfall have helped diminish drought
in the U.S. Plains and other parched areas of the United States.
Eight states continued to have some areas suffering from the
worst level of drought, dubbed "exceptional" by the Drought
Monitor, a report issued by a consortium of state and federal
climatologists each week. But those areas were shrinking.
(Additional reporting by Julie Ingwersen in Chicago and Carey
Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)