The University of Georgia has developed some of the world’s most popular Bermuda grass hybrids, one of which will be used on three of the World Cup fields this summer in Brazil.
Researchers Wayne Hanna and Kris Braman for the Turfgrass Breeding Program at UGA’s Tifton campus worked together to create TifGrand grass. This is the world’s first seed and pollen sterile Bermuda grass, which is known for its darker color, tolerance to shade and durability.
“The athletic field and golf course people were so drawn to this TifGrand because of the shade tolerance,” Hanna said. “A lot of golf courses and a lot of stadiums are shaded, so it just has blossomed very fast with the athletic field and golf course people.”
Hanna and Braman began crossbreeding to develop this hybrid Bermuda grass in 1992, and they spent more than a decade narrowing more than 28,000 hybrid crosses down to the final one.
“We went from more than 25,000 down to the one that we released, and we released the best one,” Hanna said.
Hanna said it is this kind of thoroughness that has helped the UGA research program to become world renowned, which it has been since the 1950s.
“All of our grasses at Tifton have been quite successful around the world,” Hanna said. “Because we do a lot of testing before we release them.”
The grasses planted on the 12 World Cup fields in Brazil are selected by DLF International Seeds, which also chose the grasses for the 2010 World Cup fields in South Africa.
TifSport grass, also developed by Hanna, was used on several of the soccer fields for the 2010 World Cup.
“It was named the top field in 2010 at the World Cup in South Africa,” Hanna said “That was a pleasant surprise. But not so much of a surprise because we knew it was a pretty good grass.”
The World Cup fields are reinforced with turfgrasses that provide “the perfect playing surface,” according to a press release of DLF International Seeds. This means they must be durable and able to survive in shade.
“The DLF grass for the World Cup has that unique technical quality and visible features that will create the ultimate playing surface needed for the Word Cup in Brazil,” said Roberto Gomide, CEO of World Sports & Marketing, in the press release. “I feel confident that the fields will be outstanding.”
TifGrand grass is a patented brand that became available to the public in 2010. It was originally developed for homeowners who needed a turfgrass that could grow better in shade, which is a challenge many face when it comes to planting turfgrass.
And that’s why this grass is highly valued, said Patrick Douglas, a student at Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College in Tifton and an employee of the Turfgrass Breeding Program.
“The good thing about TifGrand is it’s best known for having better shade tolerance, which means it can be planted in areas that are more shady, compared to the other Bermudas that are released,” said the senior turfgrass management major from Augusta. “I’ve heard that it’s the best Bermuda grass that’s been released yet.”
Hanna said TifGrand has had worldwide popularity.
“It’s been accepted, and word got around the world,” Hanna said. “People are using it in China and Japan, they’re using it in Italy, South America, Mexico and of course Brazil. They want to use the best grass that they can.”