Little Relief Forecast for Drought-Damaged U.S. Crops

By Sam Nelson | July 19, 2012

Midday weather updates on Wednesday indicate more hot, dry weather for the U.S. Midwest, where corn and soybean crops are rapidly deteriorating amid the harshest drought in more than half a century.

“It’s a little wetter for next week in the west and southwest but even if the rains fall they would only be 0.50 inch or less so not much relief and confidence is low in that forecast,” said Don Keeney, a meteorologist for MDA EarthSat Weather.

Keeney said some rains over the next few days would improve crops in the east and south including Ohio, Kentucky and eastern Indiana.

However, “Heat and dryness will continue to lower yield potential for corn and soybeans across western areas, including Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, southern Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota,” Keeney said.

Temperatures in the 90s to low 100s degrees Fahrenheit will blanket Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas, Andy Karst, World Weather Inc meteorologist, predicted. That will put even more stress on crops already deteriorating rapidly from the worst drought in 56 years.

“There are no soaking rains in sight, nothing to relieve the drought,” said Karst.

An isolated thunderstorm overnight Tuesday produced up to 1.50 inches of rain in around Aberdeen, South Dakota, and the rain extended into portions of western Minnesota.

“There will be some light rains today through Friday in the eastern Midwest of maybe a half inch or less with locally heavier amounts,” Karst said.

However, updated forecasts on Wednesday indicated nothing in sight that would stem overall deterioration of the corn and soy crops.

Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Wednesday said corn and soybeans in the central and southwestern Midwest growing area will encounter severe stress over the next 10 days due to continued dryness.

U.S. corn production has decreased 7 percent from the government’s downgraded estimate of a week ago, a Reuters poll of analysts projected on Tuesday, with a worsening drought expected to cause even more damage before the month is out.

As the drought, rated the worst since 1956, expands to the northern and western Midwest, areas that had previously been spared, analysts were slashing corn yield estimates by the hour. Some were also starting to cut their forecasts on the number of acres that will be harvested as farmers opt to plow under some of their parched fields to claim insurance.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in its weekly crop progress report issued on Monday, said that just 31 percent of the corn crop was in good to excellent shape, down from 40 percent a week earlier and below analysts’ average estimate of 35 percent.

Soybean conditions fell to 34 percent from 40 percent in the good-to- excellent category, likewise below estimates for 35 percent.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a report on Monday that, based on the Palmer Drought Index, 55 percent of the contiguous United States was under moderate to extreme drought in June. That is the largest land area in the United States to be affected by a drought since December 1956.

Chicago Board of Trade corn prices have soared more than 40 percent in six weeks as crop prospects have plunged.

(Reporting By Sam Nelson; Editing by John Picinich and Bob Burgdorfer)

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