AgResearch scientists say the answer to improved farm production, or some of it at least, lies in the soil.
They are looking to add soil bio-engineering to technologies used by pastoral farmers.
Senior soil scientist Alec Mackay says the farming sector has spent a lot of time and effort on above-ground aspects of pastoral systems, focusing on livestock breeds, crop and grass choice, fertiliser and irrigation.
But he says less attention has been given to what's under the surface.
A team at AgResearch aims to rectify that by focusing more effort on exploring life in the soil and how that might be used to improve farm production.
Dr Mackay says his soil science team has recently finished a survey with farmers to find out what earthworm species they have.
AgResearch is also developing a soil invertebrate index with Massey University. That will allow farmers to quantify their soil's biology and assess how that's contributing to the performance of their farms.