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How much corn and wheat and oats and cotton can the US grow? Analysts looking ahead to the year 2000 say the nation may be challenged to move toward much higher farm output. Soaring world population will fuel the demand.

Best estimates are that it would take 70 million additional acres -- over a 20 percent increase -- to meet all the demand at the end of the century. But Robert N. Shulstad, a University of Arkansas economist, calculates that only 2.2 million additional acres could be converted quickly for crops. Anything beyond that will require major outlays for soil preparation and irrigation.

Eventually, the US could boost crop acreage by an estimated 37 percent, recent studies indicate. But expanding farms by that much could bring serious side effects, such as erosion.

Some experts think the best solution would be higher output from existing farms through more irrigation and "land forming" to smooth out present fields.m

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