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Dry weather concerns persist in western Corn Belt

Agriculture.com Staff 07/12/2007 @ 8:03am

Corn plants are showing the tell-tale signs of drought stress in western parts of the Corn Belt, and forecasters say it may be some time before Mother Nature provides relief from the heat and dryness.

Widespread moisture is expected for the Soybean Belt and further into the southeastern portion of the U.S., but the rains will likely miss the western and parts of the central Corn Belt through the end of the month, according to QT Weather meteorologist Allen Motew.

"With the outlook showing widespread rain in the east, it is not likely that the bean crop will have early stress from too much heat or not enough rainfall at least until the end of July," Motew says. "The drier regions of southwest Minnesota and western Iowa will have to be closely monitored, though."

Generally, Motew says for the next two weeks, moisture is expected -- some excessive -- throughout the southern U.S. east of California, with the heaviest rainfall amounts coming through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

"The 60-hour rainfall totals for the period Monday, July 16, through Wednesday, July 18, shows a second area of excessive rainfall over the central and eastern Soybean Belt as well as parts of the lower Mississippi Valley," Motew says. "This is likely to be good news for most of the bean crop except for areas in the already dry regions of western Minnesota and Iowa."

These rains, Motew adds, should continue sporadically through the end of July, intensifying again around July 27 through July 29.

Coupled with a lack of moisture in the western and central Corn Belt, rising temperatures -- from which the region has received respite this week with cooler-than-normal temperatures in the 70s -- will ratchet up the stress on crops, according to Thursday's Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., weather market commentary.

"Cool temperatures are limiting crop stress in large degree right now, but that is going to change before too long as well," according to Freese-Notis on Thursday. "The area that is likely going to bear the brunt of the stressful weather for the rest of this month is the western Corn Belt, particularly for northwestern Iowa and points west and north. A few 90+ degree temperatures could start to show themselves in the western Corn Belt by Saturday, and that could start quite a string of days with 90+ degree weather for that area."

This weather will likely be bearish for crop ratings in the western Corn Belt, a decline in which will probably be shown in Monday's USDA crop conditions report. "I still think that it will be the report released on July 23 that could really show crop conditions going downhill in that area," according to Freese-Notis.

Yet, at the same time, the opposite circumstance continues to plague the winter wheat harvest in the Plains. In some of the areas where wheat harvest is still on pause, like around Hutchinson in south-central Kansas, more rain may spell doom for the crop's harvest.

"If there were any hopes of getting more wheat harvested [in southern Kansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas], all of this rain probably brings an end to such hope," Thursday's Freese-Notis commentary indicates of from one to three inches of rain expected to fall throughout the region.

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