David Birkett


Grower, Leeston, New Zealand

David Birkett has been farming for 25 years and is a third generation farmer on his family’s property in Leeston, New Zealand.

David is a finalist in the Sustainability category of the Growth Awards. Best practice for David means taking an integrated approach and leveraging benefits from both cultural and chemical technologies.

David has up to 12 species in his crop rotation, allowing him to maintain ground fertility and structure while using an array of pest control techniques. Within that crop rotation David uses legumes to boost the nitrogen level of the soil before planting his wheat crop.

David has also been using GPS technology which has given him at least five years of yield mapping data. This helps guide his decisions around irrigation. His use of technology isn’t limited to GPS; he also uses electromagnetic scanning to identify soil types and tailor input rates to satisfy varying nutrient requirements.

From an environmental point of view, David’s focus on sustainable practices means he is able to achieve high yields with a relatively low level of inputs. The end-goal in mind for David is a business that increases production without increasing the environmental load. He does this through managing timing and inputs effectively.

So far the highlight of David’s career has been his ability to farm intensively while improving the environment in his area, while representing arable growers’ needs through the Chairmanship of the Foundation of Arable Research.