A partially developed ear of corn is no more than 4 inches long.
A partially developed ear of corn is no more than 4 inches long.

Wetter, cooler weather was moving into the drought-stricken U.S. crop belt on Friday, and while the change comes too late to benefit the devastated corn crop, it may give some solace to soy.

As the worst drought in over a half century took its toll, investors went on a buying spree, boosting corn prices by more than 50 percent from late May to fresh record highs above $8 per bushel. The U.S. government on Friday released fresh crop data that revealed shocking cuts for this year's grain and oilseed output as the drought spread through America's breadbasket.

The better crop weather was expected in the U.S. Midwest on Friday and through next week, which will help some late-planted soybeans, but it's too late for corn, an agricultural meteorologist said.

"We're looking at a much-improved forecast compared with what we've had all summer; not perfect but better," said John Dee, meteorologist for Global Weather Monitoring.

Dee said an inch or more of rain fell overnight Thursday in Indiana and Ohio, and more rain is expected in much of Ohio on Friday. "We've seen some decent rains in much of the Midwest. Central Illinois missed out, but elsewhere there has been some rain," he said.

Light showers in the range of 0.25 inch to 0.75 inch can be expected Sunday and Monday and again at mid-week in much of the Midwest, and temperatures will be below seasonal average. The highs will range in the upper 70s (degrees Fahrenheit) in the north and mid-to upper 80s F in the south, according to Dee.

"Soybeans will probably see some response but not corn. Expecting to see a huge response would not be possible at this point," he said.

Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Friday said the driest areas now encompass one-third of the Midwest and include central Illinois, parts of eastern and southwestern Iowa, central and northeastern Missouri, Kansas, east-central Nebraska and northeastern South Dakota.

"Up to a third of the Midwest will probably remain unfavorably dry, despite some relief in South Dakota and the southern Midwest," said CWG meteorologist Joel Widenor.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Friday released a shocking report showing just how bad the corn and soybean crops have been hurt during the historic drought that some were beginning to compare with the dust bowl days of the 1930's.

USDA said this year's corn crop would fall below 11.0 billion bushels for the first time since 2006 and soybean production would drop to 2.7 billion, a five-year low.

Analysts and crop experts said further cuts may be seen in future reports.

"These numbers are pretty bullish, what else can you say? There's room for these corn numbers to come down more. For those of us who have been in the field, the crop numbers are likely to fall further," sand Dan Basse, president of AgResource Co.

Basse said the biggest surprise was the government's sharp cut in soybean production.

"This is the lowest soybean production we've seen since 2007 by a nudge. It's going to be hard to figure out how to ration it all."

Domestic corn inventories could fall to a 17-year low next summer following this year's harvest, and soybean supplies could drop to their lowest level in 32 years.

"Global corn supplies are tight but not to the extent of soybeans. The soybean situation may take two growing cycles to straighten out. We may see stout soybean prices well into next spring," said Sterling Smith, commodities strategist for Citigroup.

Soybean conditions began to stabilize last week on improved weather in a broad swath of the Midwest, while corn conditions declined again. Still, the ratings for both remained the worst since 1988.

In the past week, extreme drought doubled its grip on the top corn and soybean producing state of Iowa, according to a report by a consortium of climate experts issued on Thursday.

The area under extreme drought in Iowa rose dramatically to 69.14 percent of the state from 30.74 percent a week ago.

Drought expanded in other important farm states over the last week as well, to 94 percent of Missouri and more than 81 percent of Illinois for at least extreme drought.

"Every day we go without significant rain ... is tightening the noose," said Mark Svoboda, a climatologist with the University of Nebraska's National Drought Mitigation Center.

(Reporting By Sam Nelson; Additional reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City;Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)