No drought-busting rains seen for U.S. crop belt

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Benign weather is expected for the next week or two in the U.S. Midwest crop region, with no serious delays of early harvest but also no significant relief to corn and soybeans from the worst drought in half a century, an agricultural meteorologist said on Tuesday.

"The bottom line is there are no earth-shattering weather events in sight, it will be quiet most of the week," said John Dee, meteorologist for Global Weather Monitoring.

High temperatures in the upper 80s (degrees Fahrenheit) to low 90s are expected this week, and light showers ranging from a half inch or less are likely by Thursday and Friday in the northwest Midwest, Dee said.

"Another round of showers is likely in most of the Midwest late in the weekend and on Monday, with amounts from 0.40 inch to one inch. It's not a bone-dry forecast but certainly not a game changer," he said.

Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Tuesday said wetter weather was in store for the central and southwest Midwest on Sunday and Monday, but the rains will be too late to notably improve corn or soybean prospects.

The worst drought in over 50 years in the U.S. Midwest corn and soybean growing region has trimmed crop prospects, sent livestock water supplies to critially low levels, and hampered transporation on the Mississippi River, the major U.S. water shipping route.

"We'll continue to struggle with low water levels through the shipping season unless there's a big turnaround in weather," Dee said.

The U.S. Coast Guard said on Monday that 97 vessels were stranded by low water on the Mississippi River near Greenville, Mississippi, after an 11-mile stretch of the drought-parched waterway was closed for dredging and to replace missing navigation buoys.

The drought and early plantings boosted early harvest of this year's corn crop.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Monday said 4 percent of the U.S. corn crop had already been harvested, the fastest start ever, due to early seedings and a hot summer that pushed the crop to maturity.

Reports from a crop tour of the Midwest this week were beginning to show the serious impact the relentless heat and dryness had on America's corn and soybean crops.

The Pro Farmer tour of Midwest crops found potential Ohio corn yield at a 10-year low and South Dakota corn at a 19-year low.

It is a "crippling drought for the state of South Dakota," Pro Farmer Editor Chip Flory said.

The crop scouts also found low soybean pod counts in South Dakota, an indication of potential sharp declines in soybean production.

Benchmark Chicago Board of Trade soybeans hit a contract high on Tuesday, while corn and wheat were at their highest levels in over a week as initial reports from the tour showed severe damage from the drought.

(Reporting By Sam Nelson; editing by John Wallace)



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