The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Improving Lives, Communities and the Economy

Seeding, Soil, Sod, Science....and the Super Bowl

A few ‘Extension Experts’ have made their predictions about the upcoming Super Bowl this weekend.

Not which team will win.

But about the grass the Broncos and Panthers will play on.

“They’ll use a specially prepared bermudagrass, which holds soil, with ryegrass on top of it,” says Dr. David Kopec, Extension Specialist in Turf/Pasture Grass.

“The rye on top of the bermuda will be bound like a tight rug. It will be rolled up in sod form, and installed. The bermudagrass is the matrix that holds the rye seed. It has to be a living surface that can take traffic, and take the heavy wear and tear of the game,” says Kopec.

“It will be a bermudagrass field, overseeded with ryegrass. It is very similar to the grass we grow and study here in Arizona. It’s used because of its green color, even in winter, “says Kai Umeda, Area Extension Agent in Turfgrass Science.

It seems they’re correct.

“The turf at Super Bowl 50 is a hybrid bermudagrass overseeded with rye,” says Joe Traficano, Sales Manager in Arizona, with West Coast Turf.

West Coast Turf is the company that is providing the sod for the Super Bowl.

In a news release, the company says, “75,000 square feet of West Coast Turf’s exclusive blend of hybrid bermuda/rye turfgrass sod was grown at their northern California, Livingston, facility. Installation is expected to take two days.”

Traficano says the industry of turf growers and installers has learned a lot from Cooperative Extensions at different universities, including the University of Arizona.

“The research they’ve done has led to all of us in the industry growing better grass. We’ve learned from research. We’ve gotten a lot of practical knowledge. Research has been instrumental for golf courses especially, and has helped everyone in the industry as a whole,” says Traficano.

Traficano himself is a graduate of the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and studied turf grass.

Turf Grass Management has been studied at the University of Arizona for more than 40 years.

Umeda has worked in turfgrass management at the University for more than a dozen years, and Dr. Kopec, more than 30 years.

Cooperative Extension, whose mission is to take the science of the University, to the people of Arizona, has done just that, in the “field” of turfgrass.

Extension experts work with people from many groups on turfgrasses grown in environments ranging from home lawns, to municipal parks, to large recreational facilities, like golf courses, soccer fields, and baseball fields.

You’ll even find ryegrass – varieties of which have been studied extensively – at Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium.

Scientists have studied how to fertilize, manage soil, and how much rye to use to overseed – which means put on top of - winter grasses like Bermuda.

Scientists have even looked at special, environmentally-safe paint that can be used on grass to make it look more green on television, for aired sporting events.

Much of that is happening at the Karsten Turfgrass Research Facility. It’s part of the University’s campus agriculture center.

The 7.5 acres feature five United States Golf Association specification putting greens, and a weather station-based computer controlled irrigation system. The primary irrigation source is tertiary effluent – or basically, sanitized wastewater - from the city of Tucson.

“We’ve done a lot of work on how to efficiently irrigate turfgrass, and minimize water use,” says Dr. Paul Brown, Cooperative Extension’s Associate Director of Agriculture & Natural Resource Programs.

“One of the challenges in the industry is how to irrigate efficiently with minimal water and still produce a manageable turf surface.”

“We have learned how much water is required for turfgrass, and then provided the industry with numbers, so they can better fine-tune their water use to seasonal changes, and demand for water. That’s what we’ve done best,” says Brown.

Kopec adds the University’s research is available to everyone: including cities, the average citizen, and turf management companies.

“Cooperative Extension is open source information. What we do is based on science. Our mission is to provide information, without bias,” says Kopec.

To learn more about Cooperative Extension’s part in the study of turf, head to the turfgrass webpage.

Or email Dr. David Kopec, Kai Umeda, or Dr. Paul Brown.