Hope fades for relief to U.S. drought

Midday weather updates indicated worsening stress on the U.S. corn and soybean crops for the next two weeks as the worst drought in over 50 years retains a firm hold on America’s heartland, an agricultural meteorologist said on Wednesday.

"There are no soaking rains seen through Aug. 8," said Andy Karst, meteorologist for World Weather Inc.

Karst said there was a diminished chance for significant rain in some states and improved chances for rain in others.

"There’s no change in the drought pattern, just thunderstorms shifting around. We’re taking out rain in Kansas and Missouri for the next couple of days. There were chances for 1 to 3 inches and now its just 0.25 to 0.75 inch," Karst said.

There is a better chance next Monday for rain in western Illinois, while the northwest Corn Belt looks drier for early August. "Western Illinois could get 0.75 inch to 1.25 inch on Monday," he said.

Karst said the second week of August held some promise for some rain in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri but "likely too late to help crops."

High temperatures in the 90s Fahrenheit would remain the norm for 10 days in much of the Midwest, with triple-digit readings in the southwest, said Don Keeney, meteorologist for MDA EarthSat Weather.

He said extreme heat would continue baking crops in the southwestern Midwest, with temperatures soaring above 100 F on Wednesday in St. Louis, Missouri,

"The high today in Chicago will be 98 F then cool to the upper 80s F later in the week through next week," Keeney said.

The most expansive drought in America’s breadbasket in more than a half century has slashed corn and soybean crop prospects and boosted prices for each to record highs late last week.

The turn to wetter weather over the weekend led to a sharp selloff in grains on Monday and Tuesday. The market was showing signs of stabilizing on Wednesday because of far from ideal crop weather and as crop experts further cut their estimates for this year’s corn production.

A Reuters poll on Tuesday indicated corn yields could fall to a 10-year low, and corn production may wind up the lowest in six years.

"Monday’s crop ratings showed losses on par with the damage seen during the 1988 drought if these conditions persist," said Bryce Knorr, senior editor for Farm Futures Magazine.

This is far from early estimates that projected corn production would hit a record high this year, approaching nearly 15 billion bushels, as U.S. farmers planted the most acreage since the late 1930s to capture profits from the highest corn prices ever.

"Weather so far has taken almost 4 billion bushels off the corn crop, so a lot of demand must still be rationed," Knorr said.

An MDA Earthsat Weather tour of the crops in the Midwest this week showed the devastating effects of drought in the eastern Midwest states of Indiana and Ohio.

In Putnam County, Indiana, the crop scouts did not even stop to inspect corn fields because it was assumed the crop was so poor that farmers would plow it under rather than try to harvest anything.

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