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imageCHICAGO: Cold weather this week in the US Midwest and showers in the Plains hard red winter wheat region will slow early corn plantings but also help boost wheat production prospects, an agricultural meteorologist said on Monday.

"Temperatures will be cold again this week but not cold enough to hurt any wheat," said Kyle Tapley, meteorologist for MDA Weather Services.

Tapley said warmer weather next week would help warm soils and boost corn planting prospects and another round of rainfall is expected in the Plains.

"Next week temperatures will be warming and it will be drier in the Midwest, so there is improved planting weather. And rains will be increasing in the Plains so that will help the wheat crop," he said.

The worst drought in over 50 years has left the US Plains wheat crop struggling against dry soils and rains now will help the crop get off to a good start following its break from winter dormancy.

Don Keeney, a meteorologist for MDA Weather Services, said that as of March 23, 6 to 8 inches of rain were needed to bring soil moisture levels back to normal in much of eastern Nebraska and a corner of northeast Kansas.

While 2 to 4 inches were needed in the balance of the central Plains and western Iowa. Soil moisture levels had returned to normal in an area from eastern Iowa and Missouri eastward.

Recent snow storms and rainfall have helped diminish drought in the US Plains and other parched areas of the United States, according to a report issued on Thursday.

Eight states continued to have some areas suffering from the worst level of drought, dubbed "exceptional" by the Drought Monitor, a report issued by a consortium of state and federal climatologists each week. But those areas were shrinking.

Copyright Reuters, 2013

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