Technology is one of our most important allies. We use crop sensors, electromagnetic mapping, zonal and grid soil sampling. If an affordable new technology can give us a slight advantage, we seize it.

These are all keys to sustainable intensification. So is biotechnology. In many nations, farmers can beat back weeds and pests with genetically modified crops. As a result, they’re producing huge amounts of food.

We don’t enjoy the GM option in New Zealand, where biotech crops are practically nonexistent. They’re grown in a few highly regulated test plots for research purposes. Ordinary farmers like me have no access to them.

That’s okay for now, because existing GM seeds don’t satisfy our particular needs. Many of the diseases and pests that plague farmers elsewhere don’t occur here, and our stringent border controls aim to keep it that way. At most, biotechnology could assist in a few niche markets.

But that will change as biotechnology matures and tackles new challenges. Drought resistance is an especially attractive trait. Farmers everywhere seek to conserve water–and here, we’re working to get the most from our moisture through intensive irrigation management.

Plants that make more efficient use of water are the very essence of sustainable intensification. As biotechnology begins to deliver these innovations, we’ll need to take full advantage of them.  Water is the biggest issue that is facing the world and biotechnology will be one of the key drivers to increase water use efficiency.

There are other possibilities as well, including crops with improved nitrogen response and varieties of wheat that people with gluten intolerance can consume.

New Zealand is a small country, with a population of about 4.4 million people, which is roughly equal to metropolitan Boston or Phoenix. We’re pretty small players in the business of global food production.

That’s the other thing about sustainable intensification: To meet the world’s swelling demand for food, we must use every resource we have. That includes boosting yields on huge farms in Kansas, helping Africa meet its full potential as a breadbasket, and making sure that even far-off New Zealand has the best technology to make the most of what we can contribute.

Craige Mackenzie uses precision agriculture tools and techniques to produce specialty seed crops including wheat, ryegrass, fescue, hybrid carrots, hybrid radish, pak choi, spinach and chicory along with a dairy operation in Methven, New Zealand. Craige is a member of the Truth About Trade & Technology Global Farmer Network (www.truthabouttrade.org). Follow us: @TruthAboutTrade on Twitter.

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