Whether you’re cheering on your team in the stands as players rush the end zone, or anxiously watching your favorite golf pro tee up his final shot, when it comes to sports, agriculture is not the first thing on your mind. But the industry – and turfgrass specifically – is essential for athletics.
“Golf, football, soccer, baseball, horse racing and more all utilize Georgia’s turf industry,” says Wayne Hanna, professor in the Crop and Soil Sciences Department at the University of Georgia. “Turf helps with player safety, is aesthetically pleasing and is wear-resistant.”
Hanna says most sports venues use the Tif series of grasses developed by the University of Georgia in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. The grass is a hybrid between African Bermudagrass, which has high turf quality, and common Bermudagrasses, which have good wear-tolerance and broad adaptation. This means the grass can tolerate high traffic and adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions, making it ideal for sports fields and venues.
Georgia’s own TifSport Bermudagrass is becoming a celebrity for the state in the turf industry nationwide. Hanna says a TifSport was used for the top field in the last World Cup, held in South Africa, and there are plans to use it on the fields for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He also says that at least 80 percent of the top golf courses and athletic fields in the tropical and subtropical parts of the world use at least one type of Georgia Tif grass.
For those looking to pursue a career in the turf industry, the University of Georgia’s turfgrass management major helps guide students to continue agriculture’s role in sports and the development of new grasses. Graduates can develop careers as part of a grounds crew, an irrigation installer, landscape architect, lawn care specialist and more.
Not only students should care about agriculture’s role in sports. Hanna emphasizes the importance of the connection for the consumer as well.
“The consumer needs to know that the beautiful lawn they enjoy, the athletic event that they watch and the beautiful golf course they play on are large in large part due to agricultural research, both in the development and management of the grasses,” he says.