* Heavy rains seen for weekend through next week
* Wet weather to slow corn and soybean harvest
* Showers also seen for dry U.S. Plains wheat
By Sam Nelson
CHICAGO, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Wet weather heading for the U.S. corn and soybean harvest belt will stall crop-gathering that has been occurring at a record-fast pace, meteorologists said on Tuesday.
Dryness this week in the U.S. Midwest will allow rapid harvesting of corn and soybean crops but a turn to very wet weather is expected by the weekend, said Don Keeney, meteorologist for MDA EarthSat Weather.
"There are no delays at the present time but wet weather beginning Saturday will certainly cause delays," he said.
Keeney said the entire Midwest would receive 1.0 to 3.0 inches (2.5-7.5 cm) or more of rain from Saturday through the end of next week. "The heaviest rains will be in Missouri, eastern Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan," he said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week said the U.S. corn harvest was 54 percent complete, well above the five-year average pace of 20 percent. The soybean harvest was 41 percent complete, above the 19 percent five-year average.
The USDA will update the state of the harvest late on Tuesday in its weekly crop progress report.
Early seedings of corn and soybeans plus the worst U.S. drought in 56 years combined to push each crop to mature status, allowing for an early harvest. Also, reduced production due to the drought has allowed combines to make faster-than-normal progress.
Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Tuesday also said more significant Midwest rains would develop late this week in the northern and western belt and in the six- to 15-day period (next week) in the south and east.
"This will briefly slow northwest harvest, but more notable interruptions will focus on the Delta and Ohio River Valley toward mid-month," CWG meteorologist Joel Widenor said.
"The main threat for any damage would be quality declines for unharvested Delta cotton," he said.
U.S. PLAINS WHEAT, PASTURE TO RECEIVE A DRINK
More showers are likely by the weekend in portions of the U.S. Plains, which will further boost autumn seeding prospects for the 2013 hard red winter wheat crop, the meteorologists said.
"It will help but it's still very dry in central Nebraska, northern Kansas and northeast Colorado. They need a lot more rain," Keeney said.
The summer drought drew down soil moisture reserves in most of the U.S. Plains wheat and cattle-grazing region, leading to concerns about the fate of pastureland and wheat production.
CWG said a few showers on Saturday and Monday could scatter into dry sections of the Central Plains, although about 15 percent of the hard red winter wheat region may still struggle with crop establishment as the best coverage focuses further south in the belt.
The USDA last week said 40 percent of the U.S. winter wheat crop had been planted, below the 43 percent five-year average and 12 percent of the crop had emerged, below the 16 percent five-year average.
(Editing by Dale Hudson)