By Sam Nelson
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Little change was noted in midday weather updates for the crop-growing areas of the Midwest, indicating drought stress on U.S. corn and soybean crops is likely to continue for at least the next couple of weeks, an agricultural meteorologist said on Thursday.
"There are only minor changes, a little drier in Indiana and Ohio for the next couple of days, a little more rain for Illinois Sunday and Monday," said Andy Karst, meteorologist for World Weather Inc.
Karst said weather maps early on Thursday had indicated 0.75 inch to 1.5 inches of rain could fall late this week in the eastern Midwest but at midday the maps indicated only 0.25 inch to 0.50 inch. For Sunday and Monday in central Illinois farmers can now expect 0.50 inch to 1.00 inch compared with early outlooks for 0.25 inch.
The extended weather outlook for the first week of August indicated a stronger high pressure ridge over the U.S. Plains but there could "still be some rain," he said.
"It looks drier in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana and a little wetter in the north from August 7-10," Karst said.
Rain in the northern Midwest this week improved corn and soybean crop prospects, while heat and dryness in the southwestern section continued to stress crops.
"There should be some improvement in areas like the Dakotas and Minnesota. They have had some good rains of up to an inch or more, and there should be more rain and more improvement over the next week," Karst said.
Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois got some rains overnight, but they were too light to do much good. As a result, there will still be declining yields in those areas, Karst said, especially for corn.
"Corn is already brown so whatever yield has been established for corn that will be the final count," he said.
Karst said there had been forecasts for 1.5 to 3 inches in portions of the southwestern Midwest, but the rains were lighter than had been predicted.
There was generally a half inch or less, with locally heavier amounts, mainly in the north into Iowa of 1 to 1-1/2 inches. Heavier rainfall was very localized, he added.
Karst said hot weather would continue in the southwest with highs in the 90s to low 100s degrees Fahrenheit, but more moderate temperatures in the 80s and low 90s would prevail elsewhere.
Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Thursday said roughly two-thirds of the Midwest would get up to 0.50 inch of rain or more by Monday.
CWG said the rains would temporarily ease moisture stress, mainly aiding soybeans. Hot and dry weather is expected to return to much of the southwestern Midwest by the middle of next week, according to CWG.
The most extensive drought in five decades intensified this week across the U.S. Midwest and Plains states that produce most of the county's corn, soybeans and livestock, a report from climate experts showed on Thursday.
Almost 30 percent of the nine-state Midwest was suffering extreme drought, nearly triple from the previous week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor for the week ending July 24.
Conditions in the Midwest, which produces roughly three quarters of the corn and soybean crops in the world's largest producer and exporter, worsened despite the first measurable rainfall in a month in some areas.
More than 53 percent of the United States and Puerto Rico are in moderate drought or worse, a record-large amount for the fourth straight week in the Drought Monitor's 12-year history.
(Reporting By Sam Nelson; Additional reporting by Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; editing by Carol Bishopric)
(This story was refiled to correct Indiana from India in the fifth paragraph)
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