CHICAGO, May 25 (Reuters) - Sizzling temperatures in the U.S. Midwest and Plains this Memorial Day weekend should help spur the growth of young corn and soybean crops following planting delays due to cold weather last month, agricultural meteorologists said on Friday.
Highs should reach the low to mid 90s degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 35 Celsius) in much of the Midwest through Monday.
"Generally it's a net positive," Kyle Tapley, meteorologist with Radiant Solutions, said of the heat. "It's not going to be excessively hot where it's going to cause any stress. It's still early enough in the season that it's going to help germination."
The U.S. corn crop was 81 percent seeded as of May 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, matching the five-year average, as farmers caught up with fieldwork after a cold April stalled early planting. Illinois, the No. 2 U.S. corn state, recorded its second-coldest April on record.
The USDA is expected to release its first weekly condition ratings for the 2018 corn crop on May 29.
The late-May heat is expected to ease in early June, but temperatures are likely to remain above normal, said Joel Widenor of the Commodity Weather Group.
Most of the Midwest should have adequate moisture, with scattered rains expected over the next several days favoring the northwestern Midwest and northern Plains.
However, dry patches have emerged in parts of the Corn Belt that bear watching, the meteorologists said, particularly in west-central Illinois and Missouri.
Even in Minnesota and the Dakotas, where planting progress lagged the most, "there are more counties running with (moisture) deficits than those with a surplus," said Widenor.
HEAT TO RIPEN PLAINS WHEAT
In the southern Plains winter wheat belt, weekend temperatures could top 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius), particularly in Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle.
The region's hard red winter wheat crop already endured months of drought, and the hot spell won't improve yield prospects. But the crop's maturity has lagged the normal pace, and the heat should speed the ripening process and possibly improve grain quality.
Earlier this month the winter wheat in Kansas, the top U.S. producer, was two to three weeks behind schedule, said Jordan Hildebrand, program assistant with the Kansas Wheat Commission.
Now, Hildebrand said, "A lot of (farmers) think they will be on track with an average harvest time. But there won't be as many kernels." (Reporting by Julie Ingwersen Editing by James Dalgleish)