A visiting international environmental scientist says it is possible to increase agricultural production and still be sustainable.
Dr Ali Saleh is from Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research and is in this country for the 21st Century Watershed Technology Conference at Waikato University.
The conference was held by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers every two years in a different part of the world.
Dr Saleh said water quality issues needed to be dealt with early, because if not, any environmental damage done could not be reversed.
New Zealand needed to take a cautious approach to land changes, such as dairy conversions, Dr Saleh said.
"If they don't do things right they will lose the land, they will lose the value of the land. The food security of the country will also be affected because if they do the wrong management and destroy the land and production goes down and the environment gets bad.
"We have to understand that the farmers are the winners and losers in the first place and they have to be involved in the process.
"To get involved in the process we have to create some model programmes and educational protocols that they can easily get on to and understand and make them liable at the end and let them ask us for help and we have to help and serve them because they serve us with their food".
"New Zealand has to take the time and see best management and how to process that. They can do this in a very healthy way and learning from other countries and not repeat mistakes and if they do that it should be fine, there will be no problem but if they do loose control and just keep going then there could be some consequences".