By DAVID PITT
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- A growing season that began unusually wet and cold in the Midwest is finishing hot and dry, renewing worries of drought and the impact it may have on crops.
Temperatures soared to records in recent days in parts of the region, reaching nearly 100 degrees in some areas. The heat wave struck many farm states --from the Dakotas to Wisconsin, down to Missouri --that have seen too little rain this growing season.
"It's about the worst case scenario we could have with these high temperatures and the lack of water with soil moisture declining," said Roger Elmore, an agronomy professor at Iowa State University.
A wet, cool spring delayed planting and slowed crop growth --but it also replenished soil moisture in many crop producing states, causing some of last year's widespread drought to retreat. The rain stopped in July in many of those states, however, and as the soil dried out, the heat set in and stressed corn and soybean crops.
Corn and soybeans have developed enough that weather conditions are not likely to reduce the number of kernels on the corn cob or the seeds in soybean pods. But those kernels and seeds could develop smaller and weigh less, which could reduce the harvest this fall, Elmore said.
Lack of rain has caused drought conditions to expand in eastern Illinois, western Indiana, northern Michigan and most of Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as parts of Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. The report also shows that abnormally dry conditions expanded in eastern Iowa and South Dakota.
Rain eased drought in portions of northern Nebraska, though much of the western half of the state remains in extreme drought.
All of those states grown either corn or soybeans, or both. The drought monitor measures conditions through Tuesday morning.
Hot, dry weather also has fueled wildfires in the West, where drought expanded in portions of Idaho, western Montana, and northern Utah.
Weather patterns have helped some farmers in some states, though. The drought monitor showed improvement in western and central Kansas, western and central Oklahoma, the Panhandle of Texas, south-central Arkansas, and eastern Louisiana. Improvement from rain also was noted in western and southern South Dakota