Grass at the UGA-developed Olympic Stadium in Tifton

Grass at the UGA-developed Olympic Stadium in Tifton

An official walks across the grounds of the National Stadium in Tokyo, home of the 2020 Olympic Games. Grass raised by UGA will be used on the field. (Photo by Philip Fung/AFP via Getty Images)

The Summer Olympics may be held in Japan this year, but Team USA was on home turf when they took to the field for the opening ceremony on Friday.

The Japan National Stadium field is covered with TifSport Bermudagrass, which was developed at Georgia Southern. One of several turf varieties created and tested on the University of Georgia’s Tifton Campus, TifSport is a dense, medium to fine turf turf bred to withstand high-traffic sports fields while tolerating herbicides.

The field will be re-covered with Tifton turf, inspired by UGA’s Tifway, a hybrid Bermuda grass that can withstand the heat, sun and wear and tear of sports.

But how did Georgia-grown grass catch Chubu’s attention in the first place?

UGA’s Tifton campus is world-renowned for its turf research, with scientists like Glenn Burton leading turf innovation since the 1950s.

Later, researchers from the USDA and the University of California at Tifton Campus created Tifway and Tifdwarf, two types of Bermuda grass hybrids that for years have covered more golf courses, sports fields and lawns than any other grass varieties in the world. For decades, Tifway has been the gold standard.

Schwartz’s predecessor, Wayne Hanna, a former professor of crop and soil sciences and a member of the Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics, spent nearly three decades working with fellow researchers and students to develop varieties with better shade tolerance while maintaining a beautiful, dense density. Dark green surface.

Correct turf development

After carefully selecting and hybridizing “parent” plants that bore the traits the researchers were looking for, came the real test.

“Tifton has very sandy soil, it rains a lot and then it doesn’t rain at all, and there are insects that attack plants (and people) — it’s a very difficult place for a lot of plants to survive,” Brian Schwartz said. Professor of Crop and Soil Sciences at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “But this makes it a very successful plant propagation site for almost all crops.”

Researchers spend five to 10 years — sometimes more — trying to kill all the weeds they can. Let’s not fertilize them enough. Let’s beat them with our Traffic Machine, a tool that mimics the natural wear and tear caused by people playing and walking on grass in a short period of time. At the end of the process, the remaining five or 10 weeds are then tested across the state and then the Southeast and beyond.

“It’s a long process, and I would like it to be faster, but it’s the long process that helps you get a stable product,” Schwartz said.

Putting these herbs through a juicer removes the weaker types of grass, leaving behind grasses that can take a beating and still look beautiful. The result of decades of testing, TifTuf, for example, is a beautiful Bermuda grass that can save water and stand up to daily wear and tear due to its superior dryness and abrasion tolerance. Meanwhile, TifSport, which can resist pests and cold, remains one of the best-selling products ever.

Sports-friendly grass

Another one of those last herbs was TifGrand. Launched in 2008, turf has taken off ever since, and is particularly attractive for sports venues.

TifGrand Bermudagrass is a very dark, dense green grass that will be planted at the National Stadium for the Summer Paralympics in late August.

“It has a really thick root system that sits at the top of the field for athleticism where the cleats engage within that top inch or so of soil,” Schwartz said. “People aren’t going to change a Super Bowl stadium just because you tell them it’s really good turf. When turf has done well over many years, they start switching things up. And I think that’s how TifGrand made its way into the Olympics.”

TifGrand is also incredibly shade tolerant, which is essential for a stadium like Japan Stadium with high seating walls and roofs that can hinder the growth of grass on the field.

“It’s easy to claim ‘shade tolerance’ verbally, but it’s not easy to verify these traits scientifically,” says Fumi Miyashi, of Chubu Corporation in Japan, the company responsible for researching and finding the perfect grasses for the Olympic Stadium. “TifGrand was the only scientifically proven grade in the industry. We quickly signed a pilot evaluation agreement and tested TifGrand locally. The result was beyond our expectations.”

How UGA became global

Today, scholars like Schwartz work with UGA Cooperative Extension professionals to build and grow relationships with people and companies around the world.

“The success of the turf program is a huge team effort all the way from my 16-year-old freshman worker to the people who have been on the Tifton campus longer than me,” Schwartz said. “We are here to serve the greatest need of our community. It is a great mission for the land grant system here, where we can take our time and focus on making a difference in this industry.”

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