The world's farmers are literally losing ground on two fronts – the loss of soil from erosion and the conversion of cropland to nonfarm uses. Both are well-established trends that reduce agricultural output, but since both are gradual processes, they are often not given the attention they deserve. The 1930s that threatened to turn the United States Great Plains into a vast desert was a traumatic experience that led to revolutionary changes in American agricultural practices, such as the planting of tree shelterbelts – rows of trees planted beside fields to slow wind and thus reduce wind erosion. Perhaps the most lasting change is strip cropping, the planting of crops on alternate strips with fallowed (not planted) land each year. This permits soil moisture to accumulate on the fallowed strips, while the planted strips reduce wind speed and hence the wind erosion on the idled strips. The key to controlling wind erosion is to keep the land covered with vegetation as much as possible and to slow wind speed at ground level. One of the time-tested methods of dealing with water erosion is terracing – creating hill side ridges – to reduce runoff. Another newer, highly effective tool in the soil conservation tool kit is conservation , which includes both no tillage and minimum tillage. In conventional farming, land is plowed, disked, or harrowed to prepare the seedbed, seed is drilled into the soil with a planter, and row crops are cultivated with a mechanical cultivator two or three times to control weeds. With minimum tillage, farmers simply drill seeds directly into the soil. The only tillage is a one-time disturbance in a narrow band of soil where the seeds are inserted, leaving the remainder of the soil undisturbed, covered by crop residues and thus resistant to both water and wind erosion. In the United States, where farmers during the 1990s were required to implement a soil-conservation plan on erodible cropland to be eligible for crop price supports, the no-till area went from 7 million hectares in 1990 to nearly 21 million hectares (51 million acres) in 2000, tripling within a decade. An additional 23 million hectares were minimum-tilled, for a total of 44 million hectares of conservation tillage. This total included 37 percent of the corn crop, 57 percent of soybeans, and 30 percent of the wheat. Outside the United States, data for crop year 1998-1999 show Brazil using conservation tillage on 11 million hectares and Argentina on 7 million hectares. Canada, using conservation tillage on 4 million hectares, rounds out the big four. And now no-till farming is catching on in Europe, Africa, and Asia. In addition to reducing soil losses, minimum-till and no-till practices also help retain water and reduce energy use. Another example of an effort to control soil erosion is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Created in the United States in 1985, the CRP aimed to convert 45 million acres of highly erodible land into permanent vegetative cover under ten-year contracts. Under this program, farmers were paid to plant grass or trees on fragile cropland. The retirement of 35 million acres under the CRP, together with the adoption of conservation practices on 37 percent of all cropland, reduced soil erosion in the United States from 3.1 billion tons in 1982 to 1.9 billion tons in 1997. Saving cropland is sometimes more difficult than saving the topsoil on the cropland. This is particularly the case when dealing with urban sprawl, where strong commercial forces have influence. With cropland becoming scarce, efforts to protect prime farmland from urban spread are needed everywhere. Japan provides a good example of such efforts. It has successfully protected rice paddies even within the boundaries of Tokyo, thus enabling it to remain self-sufficient in rice, its staple food. In the United States, Portland, Oregon, provides another example. The state adopted boundaries to urban growth twenty years ago, requiring each community to project its growth needs for the next two decades and then, based on the results, draw an outer boundary that would accommodate that growth. This has worked in Oregon because it has forced development back to the city.