The World Cup, soccer’s biggest stage, is in Brazil this month, and the athletes who play on that stage will likely do it on Georgia-bred turfgrass.  

Three of the Brazilian stadiums to be used in the World Cup have been outfitted with TifGrand, a bermudagrass hybrid developed by the University of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

And three more World Cup stadiums are using Tifway 419, a bermudagrass variety developed in Tifton by Glenn Burton of the USDA-ARS.

UGA and USDA-ARS turf breeder Wayne Hanna and UGA entomologist Kris Braman developed TifGrand to be shade-tolerant and resilient to wear while maintaining a deep-green color. Shade tolerance is important in stadiums where the edges of the playing fields may receive significantly less sun than the center of the pitch, he said.

“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,” said Hanna, a professor in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences department of crop and soil sciences.

UGA turfgrass varieties are no stranger to the world stage. The bermudagrass hybrids that have come out of UGA’s breeding program in Tifton, Ga., have been used on world-class golf courses and athletics fields since the 1950s.

“I’ve traveled around the world to 40 or 50 countries, and when you ask people how they know about Georgia, it will often be because our grasses are on a local golf course, or in a stadium or on a bowling lawn that they know about,” he said. “UGA-bred bermudagrasses are grown on every continent except on Antartica.”

UGA’s turfgrass licensing program worked several years in advance to ensure that a UGA-developed turfgrass variety would be planted in Brazil, just as another Tifton-bred bermudagrass—TifSport—took center stage at the 2010 World Cup on Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South Africa, said Shelley Fincher, a licensing manager for UGA’s technology commercialization office.