Farming is important to New Zealand’s economy and identity. We are leaders in developing and using biotechnology in this field – biotechnology that will shape the future of farming.
Farming is the practice of raising large numbers of domesticated plants or animals in a controlled environment. Sheep, beef, pig and dairy farming have long been a part of the New Zealand farming scene. More recently, farming has diversified to include specialist animals (deer, alpacas and ostriches), cropping farms (maize and lavender), aquaculture (mussel and pāua farms) and new orchard species (olives and avocado).
Developments in technology have helped to improve farming practice and productivity since farming first began. New Zealand has played an important role in this, for example, the first successful refrigerated ship voyage carried a cargo of meat from Dunedin to London.
Traditional agricultural biotechnology
Biotechnology is not a new practice on New Zealand farms. Haymaking protects grass from rotting caused by microorganisms, by completely drying it out. Silage preserves the grass by fermenting it to make it acidic, thereby protecting it from microorganisms.
Get information sheet: What is silage?
Get unit plan: Effects of silage on a rural stream
Extraction of oils from plants, such as olives, avocado and lavender, has been done around the world for centuries to make food and medicine.
Get class case study: Visit to a lavender farm
Modern agricultural biotechnology
Recent developments in biotechnology have the potential to change farming in the future. Genetic screening is one example. This takes the tradition of selective breeding to a new level. Prospective breeding stock are chosen, not just for their phenotype, but also their genotype.
Get information sheet: Genes involved in footrot: Patterns of inheritance
Such technology would have a valuable impact on farming.
Get information sheet: Impacts of the footrot gene-marker test on New Zealand sheep farming
Both land and labour for farming are becoming limited. As the demands on these resources become higher, making farms as efficient as possible will become more and more important.
- 20 November 2007