After weeks of relentless heat stress from the worst U.S. drought in more than half a century, deteriorating corn and soybean crops were getting some relief by light rains this week, an agricultural meteorologist said Thursday.
But the shift in weather came too late to help much of the corn crop which had been planted early and bore the brunt of high heat and drought this summer. Some late-planted soybeans may benefit from the turn to cooler and damper weather.
"A cool front is moving through the Midwest, bringing light rain to most of the area. There should be a half inch of rain with some areas getting up to an inch or more," predicted Andy Karst, a meteorologist with World Weather Inc.
Temperatures should remain in the 70s to 80s degrees Fahrenheit Thursday through the middle of next week, then rise to the low 90s.
"There's another rain event at mid-week (next week) that will be important to crops. If that fizzles out, there will be more stress on crops," he said.
Various weather models did not agree on how much rain would fall next week, Karst pointed out.
Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Thursday said better-than-expected rains of a half to one inch were received in Iowa and Wisconsin on Wednesday. Showers would move across the Midwest later in the week.
However, more than a third of the Midwest's soybean belt remained under stress from drought, including parts of central Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, central and southeastern South Dakota and a few spots in western Iowa, CWG said.
Still, the moisture will provide little benefit to crops that already have been severely damaged by the heat wave, according to CWG.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly crop progress report released on Monday showed that domestic corn conditions stabilized after nine weeks of ratings declines, and soybean crop conditions improved slightly.
However, the ratings for each crop remained at their lowest levels since the last serious drought in 1988.
As the worst drought in more than a half century took its toll, investors went on a buying spree, boosting corn prices more than 50 percent from late May to record highs above $8 per bushel.
The USDA last Friday released data showing deep cuts for this year's corn and soybean output as the drought spread through America's bread basket.
The agency said the 2012 corn crop would fall below 11.0 billion bushels for the first time in six years and the number of bushels yielded per acre was at a 17-year low. Soybean production was forecast at a five-year low and soy yield per acre at nearly a 10-year low.
Analysts and crop experts said additional cuts may be seen in future reports.