Disappointing rains fall in Plains wheat belt

Reuters Business News
Posted: Mar 18, 2011 2:43 PM
Disappointing rains fall in Plains wheat belt

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Overnight rains in the U.S. Plains wheat belt were disappointing, with more moisture needed especially in the far western areas to boost development this spring, a forecaster said on Tuesday.

Rains were 0.25 inch (6.3 mm) or less with the exception being south central Kansas to north central Oklahoma which received 0.25 to 0.75 inch of rainfall.

"I was expecting to see more," said Mike Palmerino, ag meteorologist with Telvent DTN. "Overall the moisture was disappointing with the exception of the Wichita (Kansas) to Enid (Oklahoma) area."

The Plains hard red winter wheat crop has been suffering from dryness since last autumn, especially in the western areas of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. That raises concerns about the crop's yield potential.

Weekly state crop reports issued late Monday showed wheat conditions stabilized in Kansas and Texas and improved slightly in Oklahoma but soils are parched. Soil moisture is 80 to 95 percent short to very short from west Texas to western Kansas.

Lingering rains were falling in the Plains early Tuesday, less than 0.10 inch expected in the west and under a 0.25 in the east.

The remainder of the week will be mostly dry. Temperatures will be cool through Wednesday, normal to below with highs mostly in the 40s degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius). Conditions then turn warmer with highs in the 50s to 60s F.

The Midwest corn and soybean region will see more rains and snow this week which will maintain high water levels on the rivers, impacting grain barge traffic and delaying early spring fieldwork.

The western belt from northeastern Nebraska to northern Iowa to southern Minnesota will pick up about 4 inches or more of snow on Tuesday. That storm moves eastward for Wednesday, bringing 0.5 to 1.5 inch or precipitation to the eastern belt.

"This coolish and unsettled weather pattern does not allow for any field work and we still run the risk of rivers flooding," Palmerino said.

The six to 10-day outlook for the Plains, Sunday to Thursday, called for normal to above normal temperatures and normal to below normal precipitation.

The Midwest outlook for the same period is for variable temperatures and near to above normal precipitation.

(Reporting by Christine Stebbins; Editing by Marguerita Choy)