WASHINGTON, July 25, 2012 -Harsh, high temperatures continue to dominate much of the Corn Belt, despite rains that offered some relief in southern and eastern Wisconsin down into Ohio, USDA officials say.

A second consecutive week of widespread showers in the southeastern United States further revived pastures and aided immature summer crops. Weekly totals in excess of 4 inches were noted in the central Gulf Coast region and parts of the interior Southeast.

However, farther west, mostly dry weather and triple-digit heat continued a stranglehold on the Plains and the western Corn Belt, hitting the region as corn and soybeans enter the reproductive stage of development. The situation there is similar to what happened in late June and early July across the lower Midwest.

Last week, 45% of the U.S. corn crop was rated in very poor to poor condition, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Soybeans rated very poor to poor rose to 35%.

NASS said the very poor to poor ratings for both commodities have increased for seven consecutive weeks, noting that on June 3, just 5% of the corn and 6% of the soybeans were rated very poor to poor.

Possibly compounding the bad news are projections that an El Niño weather pattern that might bring some rain to the Midwest seems to be on hold. El Niño is a broad-scale phenomenon associated with unusually warm water that occasionally forms across much of the tropical eastern and central Pacific.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center (CPC) issued an El Niño alert in June and recently said that “forecaster consensus reflects increased chances for El Nino beginning in July-September 2012.” However, signs that teased the climatological phenomenon have remained relatively stagnant, suggesting that little help with the rains needed this month and next is coming.

Meanwhile, from June 3 to July 22, that portion of the U.S. corn rated good to excellent plunged from 72% to 26%, while soybeans rated good to excellent fell from 65% to 31%.

USDA says the current corn and soybean ratings represent the lowest conditions at any time of year since 1988. During that year, corn rated very poor to poor peaked at 53% on Aug. 21, while soybeans rated very poor to poor peaked at 37% on July 10, 24 years ago.

With unfavorably hot weather persisting through mid-week across the Plains and Midwest, forecasters say Midwestern drought relief could improve as the week progresses, especially in the northern and eastern Corn Belt as more rain is expected, particularly from the Dakotas to Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio.

However, NASS forecasters say only light showers can be expected across the southwestern Corn Belt, from Nebraska to southern Illinois, and unfavorably dry conditions will persist on the central and southern Plains.


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