U.S. farmers race to wrap up crop plantings between rains

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Occasional showers over the next 10 days will continue to slow corn and soybean plantings in the U.S., threatening to trim acreage and yields, an agricultural meteorologist said on Monday.

"There is still an active pattern," said meteorologist John Dee of Global Weather Monitoring. "It's not a perfect pattern to finish planting."

U.S. farmers are struggling to plant their crops after rain delayed the tail end of corn seeding and pushed soybean planting to its slowest rate in 17 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its weekly report on Tuesday.

Dee said the rainfall over the next couple of weeks would not be as heavy as in the past, which would allow some planting to take place. There will be light showers of 0.3 to 0.8 inches in the western Midwest on Tuesday and Wednesday and in the east on Wednesday and Thursday, he said.

A similar rainstorm will occur late Saturday through Monday.

"We're getting away from the heavy rains, and there will be a couple of windows of planting opportunity," Dee said. "It's a step in the right direction, and for crops that are in the ground, it's close to a perfect situation."

The USDA will release updated planting data late on Monday.

The slow seeding of both corn and soybeans this spring has raised concerns about reduced yields at the autumn harvest as key phases of crop development will probably be delayed until the heat of the summer. A late planting also increases the possibility that an early frost would inflict further damage on the crops.

The USDA said corn planting was 86 percent complete as of May 26, up 15 percentage points from a week earlier.

The corn progress was down from 99 percent a year ago and behind the five-year average of 90 percent. But prospects were much improved from just two weeks ago, when muddy fields led to the slowest start on record for corn planting.

Farmers had finished 44 percent of soybean planting as of May 26, compared with 87 percent a year ago and the five-year average of 61 percent. It was the slowest pace for soybeans since 1996, when farmers had seeded just 35 percent of their crop by the end of May. (Reporting by Sam Nelson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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