Jul 5, 2013

AstroTurf Facts


It was originally named “ChemGrass” before being used by the Houston Astros Major League Baseball team in the Astrodome.

Contrary to popular belief, AstroTurf was not first used or invented for the Houston Astros.  It was originally invented in 1964, two years before the Astros would use it, by Donald L. Elbert, James M. Faria, and Robert T. Wright, working for Monsanto Company.

In 1965, the Houston Astros attempted to use a special type of natural grass on the indoor field, but the semi-transparent ceiling panels did not let in enough sunlight and the grass died within a few months.  This resulted in the Astros organization having to paint the dirt field green, to make it appear more like a normal baseball field.

By the start of the 1966 season, the Astros decided to go with ChemGrass. Due to a limited supply, though, they were only able to get the infield covered for the first half of the season and the outfield was still painted green dirt.  Shortly after the All-Star break, the entire field was covered in ChemGrass and this artificial surface received national attention for the first time.

Soon after other sporting teams began using ChemGrass up for outdoor stadiums, particularly those in colder climates. The product was renamed AstroTurf by John A. Wortmann, an employee of Monsanto.  By 1987, AstroTurf had become so popular that Monsanto made it an independent subsidiary, named AstroTurf Industries, Inc.

AstroTurf eventually became unpopular in outdoor fields, despite the cost benefit, mostly due to the extra wear on player’s bodies. It was typically installed over cement and provided little cushioning compared to real grass and dirt. Currently, over 160 million square feet of AstroTurf is being used on sporting fields and for home use worldwide.

AstroTurf eventually lent its name to the political and business term 'AstroTurfing', where a business or political group will attempt to create an artificial 'movement' to sway public opinion about a topic by making people think 'regular' people are behind the movement.

The US government hired a software company in 2011 to develop special AstroTurfing software, partly by using Facebook, Twitter, and by social engineering that would help the government sway public opinion on various topics. Among other things, the software would scan for online articles written by people with opposing views to what the Administration wanted people to think. It would then create fake accounts and automatically post made up, discrediting information about the authors.