The head of Landcare Research says the efficiency of fertilisers will need to at least double over the next 15 years if New Zealand farming is to remain internationally competitive.
Dr Warren Parker says New Zealand pastures require more and more nutrients to meet global food demands.
He says the industry needs to think about where it will get those extra nutrients from and how it can use them in an environmentally responsible way.
Dr Parker says stores of potassium and phosphate, which are currently used to fertilise pastures, are likely to become scarce over the next 20 years.
He believes doubling the effectiveness of how they are used now, could be the answer for the future.
It's a daunting task and they will need to be affordable and effective.
Dr Parker says science has faced big challenges like this in the past, and a collective approach by the entire pastoral industry should ensure its success now.