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Tifway withstands test of time

From left, University of Georgia turfgrass breeder Brian Schwartz, retired UGA turfgrass breeder Wayne Hanna and UGA football coach Mark Richt are at UGA Day at the university’s Tifton campus Thursday. The turf used inside Sanford Stadium was developed at the UGA Tifton campus.

From left, University of Georgia turfgrass breeder Brian Schwartz, retired UGA turfgrass breeder Wayne Hanna and UGA football coach Mark Richt are at UGA Day at the university’s Tifton campus Thursday. The turf used inside Sanford Stadium was developed at the UGA Tifton campus.

TIFTON, Ga. — Wayne Hanna beams from ear to ear when he talks about Tifton turfgrass. Some might say he’s a proud papa, and rightly so.

“We develop them, and to see them succeed, it’s just like a parent whose child succeeds … it’s the same experience to see grasses you’ve developed and tested over time,” said Hanna, a retired turfgrass breeder with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

One of those grasses, Tifway 419, is a bermudagrass variety developed in the 1960s by former USDA turfgrass breeder Glenn Burton. It’s most often used on golf courses and athletic fields and currently covers the field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, home of the Georgia Bulldogs football team.

“The turf is off the chain,” said Georgia football coach Mark Richt, who was in Tifton on Wednesday to speak at the UGA Day event held at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center. “When we line up against South Carolina (in next year’s home opener), it’s going to be looking great.”

Hanna said Tifway’s ability to withstand extreme pressure from collegiate athletes is why it has succeeded as UGA’s playing field and other fields throughout the country.

“It’s dense, real wear-tolerant and it recovers fast from damage from athletes,” Hanna said. “Tifway is pretty disease resistant. It just doesn’t have a whole lot of problems.”

UGA turfgrass breeder Brian Schwartz agrees. “It’s a fine textured, dark green grass that’s been used successfully for about 50 years. The football field there in Athens is probably the best looking one in the SEC, in my opinion,” he said.

Tifway’s name comes from a combination of Tifton and fairway, meaning it is highly suited for golf courses. It is also highly recommended for lawns, making Tifway a versatile variety.

“It doesn’t take any type of special care. It does well under a broad range of managements,” Hanna noted.

Tifway 419 is used in other football stadium saround the country, including at Texas A&M and Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla. But none compare to Georgia’s field, according to Schwartz.

“(Richt’s) got a beautiful field,” Schwartz said. “Many stadiums are torn up later in the season and his is just looking great. They do a good job there.”

For more on UGA-bred turfgrass varieties, see the website www.georgiaturf.com.

Clint Thompson is information coordinator for the University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Tifton.