Rains provide some relief to drought-stressed U.S. crops

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Rains over the weekend across most of the U.S. Midwest corn and soybean growing region, and forecasts for more rain this week, will help relieve stress on crops, an agricultural meteorologist said Monday.

"It's an improved forecast, not a perfect one," said John Dee, meteorologist for Global Weather Monitoring. "I wasn't so surprised about the amounts of rain, but the 85 percent coverage was better than expected."

From 0.20 to 0.80 inch of rain, with locally heavier amounts, fell on about 85 percent of the Midwest over the weekend. More rain was forecast for early this week and again later in the week.

"A similar storm system is likely Wednesday and Thursday to bring similar amounts and coverage," he said. The Midwest was nearing the end of the extreme heat, while hot weather remained worrisome in the Southwest.

"A good chunk of the Midwest will get a welcome break from the heat late this week and early next week with highs in the 80s degrees Fahrenheit," Dee said.

The worst drought in more than half a century caused serious harm to the domestic corn crop, reducing yield prospects, and was now beginning to cut into soybean production prospects.

Cooler temperatures and showers came too late to help much of the corn crop, but soybeans will benefit from the turn away from the extreme heat and dryness. "The rains and cooler temperatures will help but not end the problem," he said.

Chicago Board of Trade corn and soybeans soared to record highs in July due to the drought-related crop reductions. Prices have been falling so far in early August.

Early Monday, CBOT soybeans were down nearly 2 percent and corn was down more than a half percent.

Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Monday said the weekend rains favored about half of the Midwest, but nearly a third of the soybean growing area would remain dry.

The drought had been intensifying during the week ended last Thursday, with crops suffering across the Midwest and central Plains, according to a report issued by climate experts last Thursday.

The drought became more severe in the southern U.S. as well, just a year removed from a record-breaking dry spell that ruined crops and wilted grazing pastures across Texas and Oklahoma enough to force a then-unprecedented northward migration of cattle.

Nearly two-thirds of the contiguous United States was suffering from some level of drought as of July 31, more than a fifth of it classified as extreme drought or worse, according to the Drought Monitor, a weekly report compiled by U.S. climate experts.

(Reporting By Sam Nelson; Editing by John Picinich)



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