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At World Cup in Brazil, USDA Grasses Score Big

Here’s something to kick around: About half of the soccer matches at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil have been played on turfgrass bred jointly by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Georgia.

Turfgrass is a billion-dollar industry, creating jobs at nurseries, sod farms, golf courses and a variety of stadiums and other athletic facilities. ARS has been breeding warm-season turfgrasses since the 1950s, and has worked closely with scientists at the University of Georgia for decades. It’s been a particularly productive partnership and is responsible for producing turfgrasses that are used on some of the world’s top golf courses and athletic fields.

Of the 12 stadiums that are World Cup sites this year, three are using Tifway 419, a bermudagrass developed in Tifton, Ga., and released in 1960 by the late Glenn Burton, a pioneering ARS grass breeder. Three other stadiums are equipped with TifGrand, a shade-tolerant and extremely wear-resistant bermudagrass released jointly by ARS and the University of Georgia in 2008. Another Tifton-bred variety, TifSport, was used at the 2010 World Cup in Durban, South Africa.