July 9, 2012 / 6:47 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 2-U.S. Corn Belt heat wave breaks, but this week's rains light

* U.S. Midwest heat breaks as temperatures moderate

* USDA slashes corn, soy ratings after last week’s heat wave

* Midday weather outlooks through next week unchanged (Updates with USDA crop ratings)

By Christine Stebbins

CHICAGO, July 9 (Reuters) - Sizzling temperatures abated in the U.S. Midwest Corn Belt over the weekend, but forecasters said on Monday that light, scattered rains this week would probably miss the areas where crops need moisture the most.

Midday weather updates indicated little to no change for this week’s forecast, with milder temperatures blanketing the Corn Belt, but rains will be limited.

“We got a break in the temperatures over the weekend but no rain of significance is in sight for next seven days,” said Jim Keeney, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service the US central region based in Kansas City, Missouri.

High temperatures cooled into the 80s Fahrenheit over the weekend, and were forecast to remain there this week, following record-setting readings last week that topped 100 degrees, scorching corn and soybeans.

In the top U.S. crop state of Iowa, the southern town of Rathbun Dam notched an all-time of 105 Fahrenheit this weekend.

The extreme heat and drought conditions are hitting the core of the U.S. Midwest just as the region’s big corn crop pollinates, the key yield-determining growth phase for corn. Drought conditions intensified the past week across the central United States, causing irrevocable damage to crops in Missouri, Indiana and even southern Illinois, where farmers are cutting stunted corn for silage, a low grade feed for cattle.

The U.S. government said late Monday that crops were in their worst condition since the drought of 1988. USDA rated 40 percent of the corn crop good to excellent, down 8 percentage points after last week’s record heat wave. Soybeans, which mature later than corn, were also rated 40 percent good to excellent, versus 45 percent the week before.

Crops will need rain to have much chance of rebounding, and forecasts looked mostly dry for the next 10 days from the central U.S. Plains across Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois.

“Considering the forecast over the next couple of weeks, I think those areas are going to become bigger issues, especially central and eastern Iowa,” said Kyle Tapley, an agricultural meteorologist with MDA EarthSat Weather/CropCAST.

“The areas that are too far gone across the southeastern Midwest will get some rains,” he added. “But where they could get some improvement, across the central and western Midwest, it doesn’t look they are going to get much rain.”

Computerized weather forecasting models looked wetter.

“There is some model disagreement, with the American model showing a wetter solution across the central and western Midwest. But we’re not buying into that at this point,” Tapley said.

Rains over the weekend brought much-needed relief to parts of the Midwest. Portions of southern Missouri received as much as 1.5 inches of rain, and showers brought up to an inch to northern Wisconsin, northern Minnesota and North Dakota.

Lesser amounts, generally 0.5 inch or less, fell in southern Illinois and southern Indiana.

“The crop remains under a lot of stress and the rainfall that came yesterday was not widespread,” said Emerson Nafziger, a University of Illinois agronomist, referring to corn in Illinois, the second-largest crop state behind Iowa.

“The temperature hasn’t been as hard on the crop as the lack of the water. That is going to continue this week,” Nafziger added.

Further south rains were forecast to move through the Mississippi River Delta on Monday and later this week, along with parts of Missouri, southern Illinois and the Ohio River Valley.

“As we head toward Friday, rain works its way farther north into far southeastern Indiana and southern Ohio. But amounts will be fairly light,” Tapley said.

John Dee of Global Weather Monitoring, a weather advisory closely tracked by grain traders, is forecasting hit-and-miss showers this week — up to one-third of an inch for a third of the belt. There was a better chance of showers next week for more of the Midwest, he said, but amounts will remain light.

“Nobody is in good shape. Minnesota and Iowa even are stressing from a lack of moisture,” Dee said. (Additional reporting by Julie Ingwersen.; Editing by John Picinich, M.D. Golan and David Gregorio)

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