Oregon export: Official grass of the World Cup

By Steve Lathrop / Albany Democrat-Herald

Published Jun 17, 2014 at 12:01AM

TANGENT — DLF Pickseed has its grass seed on familiar ground during soccer’s World Cup games. Only this time, the grass covers a lot more area — as in all of it.

Steve Reid, research director for the company, said DLF’s PhD perennial ryegrass mixture was overseeded on every field that will be used during the World Cup tournament, being held in Brazil.

DLF, an international company that has its U.S. headquarters and numerous research facilities in Oregon’s Linn and Benton counties, seeded specific fields during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but this time around it is the only distributor.

“There are 12 venues for the World Cup in Brazil,” Reid said. “Most of Brazil’s fields are Bermuda grass-based, overseeded with various DLF perennial ryegrasses.”

DLF shipped 300,000 pounds of seed in April and it was dispersed among the soccer fields as soon as it arrived. The tournament features 64 matches in all and 32 teams from all over the world.

DLF began working with FIFA, the international organization that manages the World Cup, on managing and developing pitches there almost as soon as the 2010 events ended. Reid said DLF varieties matched the environment in Brazil.

The fields will likely rest three days between matches, getting water and fertilization as needed. Conditions in the stadium have been modified to meet the ideal. “Some will have artificial lights in shaded areas of the stadium to keep it as close to perfect as it can get,” Reid said.

The fields are being mowed daily — they are cut under an inch, according to Reid — and and top-dressed with sand. Grasses were tested first with trial mixtures at DLF’s Philomath research site. Reid said 18 different mixtures were tested before deciding which to use.

“We looked at every possible environment, so we have a pretty good idea of what the components can handle,” Reid said. Additional tests were conducted at DLF’s Kentucky facilities, which provided climate closer to that of Brazil. International testing also took place.

“Grasses need to be tough for this climate: heat-resistant, disease-tolerant and wear-tolerant,” Reid said.

There’s plenty of need for all of those properties. DLF has a machine that simulates wear from various types of cleats that athletes use.

“It’s extreme,” Reid said. “It will provide more of a pounding than the grass will see at the World Cup.”

The goal, Reid said, is to create grass that will “withstand a pounding and support the athletes.”

Outside of the World Cup, Reid said the company doesn’t seed a great number of athletic fields, but it’s an area the company plans to explore further. He said DLF seed is used at Dodger Stadium and the University of Kentucky.