World Cup turf has Northwest roots
Seed Research of Oregon provides turf for global soccer event
By ANNA WILLARD
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- The decision to use grass seed from Seed Research of Oregon for the 2010 FIFA World Cup literally took years to reach. But once it was finalized, the Corvallis-based company sent 165,000 pounds of grass seed to South Africa for the event.
To facilitate sales similar to these, Seed Research works with regional companies like Agricol, its distributor in South Africa. Seed Research has worked with Agricol for 25 years in the region.
"The reason you have a regional distributor is that they know what works for that area," Bill Dunn, executive vice president for Seed Research of Oregon, said.
Agricol has a reputation for working with high-performance varieties and is one of the reasons they were chosen, Dunn said. The company also supplies seed for many of the rugby fields and golf courses in the area.
The requirements for rugby and soccer pitches are similar and this event required turf that could stand the stress of being played on for a month straight, he said.
"(Agricol) started working with the World Cup four or five years ago to get the product tested and evaluated," Dunn said.
To evaluate turf performance, they tested wear tolerance, density of the grass, shear strength, drought resistance, and how well the grass recovered from wear. Another factor that had to be taken into account was the fact that it would be winter in the southern hemisphere during the World Cup. That meant lower light and cool season performance also had to be evaluated.
Finally, about a year ago, Agricol was certain it would get the contract.
All 70 of the practice fields and stadiums had to be consistent to prevent any complaints about differences in playing surfaces. Some of the stadiums had warm-season grasses and they were replanted with the four different varieties of cool season grasses provided. Two perennial ryegrass varieties and two types of Kentucky bluegrass comprise at least 80 percent of each field.
"The majority of the perennial ryegrass was grown in Oregon and the bluegrass was grown in eastern Washington and Idaho," Dunn said.
Sales of Oregon grass seed for major sporting events such as the World Cup are not uncommon, Roger Beyer, executive director of the Oregon Seed Council, said.
"We're the worldwide leader in grass seed production. Our product has been used for Rose Bowls, Super Bowls, and was used in the Beijing Olympics," Beyer said.
Even though Oregon is the worldwide leader in grass seed production, Dunn says there was still plenty of competition for this contract from around the world.
"The fact that we were chosen is great for the company and great for Oregon agriculture. It is also a great testament to our quality," Dunn said.