As the FIFA World Cup Brazil continues and teams from 32 nations compete, one thing is clear: the quality of the playing fields. By the time the World Cup reaches its conclusion, 12 stadiums will have hosted the 64 games. For some behind-the-scenes observers, the star performers are underfoot.
Eleven of the twelve venues feature quality, licensed turfgrasses. Three stadiums feature TifGrand, three feature Tifway 419 and five feature Celebration bermudagrass.
University of Georgia (UGA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) turf breeder Wayne Hanna and UGA entomologist Kris Braman developed TifGrand.
“It’s wear-resistant, which is important during an event like the World Cup where the turf gets a lot of use during the tournament,” says Hanna, professor at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences department of crop and soil sciences.
The TifGrand sod used in the Estádio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre, Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá and the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba was licensed by the UGA’s Technology
Commercialization Office to Brazilian company Green Grass. Green Grass supplied the TifGrand for the 2014 World Cup fields.
“The bermudagrass hybrids that have come out of the UGA’s Tifton-based breeding program have been used on world-class golf courses and athletic fields since the 1950s, but it’s hard to top the international visibility that the World Cup provides,” Hanna says.
In the United States, TifGrand is licensed by the UGA’s technology commercialization office to The Turfgrass Group in Cartersville, Ga. It is grown at dozens of sod farms across the continental U.S. and Hawaii.
Tifway 419 is a bermudagrass variety developed in Tifton, Ga., by Glenn Burton of the USDA-ARS.
Celebration bermudagrass, a deep blue-green grass, is used at five World Cup stadiums including Brasília, Salvador, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza and Estádio Maracanã in Rio De Janeiro. Estádio Maracanã will play host to the final game.
All five venues that feature Celebration require a unique grass that grows under a significant amount of shade, has durability, exceptional recovery, softness, drought resistance and beautiful color, according to Roberto Gurgel, executive director of research with Sod Solutions.
Sod Solutions, in Mount Pleasant, S.C., also develops and licenses a variety of both warm- and cool-season quality turfgrasses, including Celebration bermudagrass.
Celebration bermudgrass is an Australian Breed Cynodon dactylon developed by the late renowned turfgrass breeder and greenskeeper Rod Riley and is the result of more than ten years of development. Riley’s turfgrasses have set new standards for bermudagrasses in Australia, Asia and the United States since the 1960s.
Celebration requires less mowing than typical bermuda varieties, has tough runners, rhizomes and deep roots that provide excellent sod strength, durability and improved drought tolerance.
The World Cup provides a competitive setting to demonstrate how new generations of turfgrass can handle the challenge that international soccer demands.