Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

World Cup using Manitoba grass

Local company provided seeds for Brazil

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Evan Rasmussen, who farms west of Headingley, supplied grass seed to this year's World Cup.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Evan Rasmussen, who farms west of Headingley, supplied grass seed to this year's World Cup. Photo Store

World Cup soccer players getting their kicks in Brazil are doing it on grass from Manitoba seeds.

And even if you didn't make it to Brazil, you can grow a similar lawn. The Manitoba blend has some tough Kentucky bluegrass mixed in for our harsh climate.

Canadian company Pickseed was plucked as the official grass seed supplier for this year's World Cup. The company provided Manitoba-grown perennial rye grass seeds for each of the World Cup's 12 stadiums.

Pickseed also provided seeds for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2012 UEFA European Championship in Ukraine and Poland.

"We have a World Cup blend we sell that is designed for soccer pitches and other playgrounds, which germinates quicker than regular grass," said Terry Scott, the western Canadian vice-president of DLF Pickseed.

The World Cup blend comes in 10- and 25-kilogram bags that cost $60 and $150. Scott said a 10-kilogram bag is usually enough to cover a 5,500-square-foot yard.

'It's exciting, definitely exciting'

-- Evan Rasmussen

People can buy the World Cup seed at Pickseed's Winnipeg facility at 1884 Brookside Blvd. (Route 90). They're not selling it at retail stores.

Evan Rasmussen, a farmer who lives just west of Headingley, is among those whose seeds were selected for the World Cup.

Having farmed for the last 10 years, Rasmussen said once he passes his seeds off to companies such as Pickseed, he rarely finds out where they wind up sprouting.

"We don't usually find out where they go... we heard that they went to the World Cup," said Rasmussen.

Rasmussen said he tunes in the games occasionally and when he does, he sneaks a peek at the turf.

"It's exciting, definitely exciting," he said.

"All the major seed companies vie for the World Cup and you do your presentations and are able to acquire a contract for it," Scott said.

"We did it and we charged our fee, of course. But in South Africa -- I don't know if this was the case in Brazil -- major seed companies were offering to provide (seeds) at no cost just to get recognition."

Scott is watching the World Cup from the comfort of his couch this year, but said it looks like the grasses are holding up relatively well.

He admitted to getting a little preoccupied with watching the grass instead of the players.

"With 32 teams running around on 12 fields so far, they've had a lot of traffic in this first round," said Scott. "That the fields are getting torn up doesn't surprise me."

There have been some complaints from teams and officials, saying the pitches are dry and patchy.

Chile's head coach, Jorge Sampaoli, told a Brazilian newspaper he didn't think the fields should even be played on.

"We aren't responsible for seeding the fields. We do have technicians that went over there in March to show the fieldkeepers how it's done," said Scott.

"I was particularly surprised at the 'dry' comment because these fields can be watered at any time."

Scott said wear and tear on the fields is bound to happen at a month-long event such as the World Cup, and he hoped participants would be good sports about any deficiencies the grass might have.

"I've seen some of the games where it's been raining and thought 'Oh boy, that's going to tear up the fields pretty good,' " Scott said.

"I suspect that maybe it was the teams that were losing their games that were complaining about the field conditions."

jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 27, 2014 A5

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