Master Farmers and Master Farm Homemakers took a Discover Kansas tour in Pratt and Pratt County.

The Discover Kansas tour did exactly that as Kansas Master Farmers and Kansas Master Farm Homemakers from across the state took a tour of businesses and farms in Pratt County and in Pratt on Aug. 2.

The Discover Kansas tour visited Next GINeration Cotton Gin at Cullison, Pratt County Historical Society Museum, David and Jesse Blasi Farm, Scoular Grain and Pratt Energy Ethanol plant, Gary and Ruth Ann Barker and Bob and Janis Moore farmsteads, B-29 All Veteran's Memorial, Filley Art Museum plus driving tour of Lemon Park, Sixth Street Park and Green Sports Complex.

Anita and Cleon Davis are Master Farmers and Master Farm Homemaker members are were part of the group. Every year, six Kansas Master Farmers and Kansas Master Farm Homemakers are chosen the five Cooperative Extension Service districts. They are chosen for their excellence in farming and community involvement, church activities and awards, Anita said.

Anita Started Discover Kansas with the goal in mind to see parts of Kansas they would normally never see. Through 14 years, she said the group had discovered some fabulous things in smaller towns in Kansas. She enjoyed her time in Pratt and was very impressed with the Pratt County Historical Society Museum.

"The museum is wonderful," Anita said.

First stop on the tour was the Next GINeration Cotton Gin where Roger Sewell, business development for the gin, explained the operation of the gin and how the product was marketed.

Cleon said he enjoyed the cotton gin tour was very interesting and had used cotton bi-product for cattle protein.

"The tour is great," Cleon said.

Sewell said Next GINeration Cotton Gin was built in 2004 and was recently purchased by local operators. The gin has 15 employees.

The number of cotton acres has exploded in the past couple of years. In 2017, 30,000 cotton acres were planted in Pratt County with about 90,000 acres state wide. The acres are about 50-50 for dry land and irrigated.

The gin produced 20,000 bales in 2016 and could produce 50,000 to 60,000 bales this year because of the increase in acres. The entire ginning process takes about 30 minutes and the gin can produce from 35 to 40 bales an hour. Cotton lint, the part that goes into cotton bales, is running from 67 cents to 70 cents a pound and a bale is about 800 pounds.

The gin season can run from November to February or March. Because of the increase in acres, the gin may have to go to a 24-hour operation. Each field is assigned a number and every bale can be tracked from field to mill so the gin takes care to make sure their cotton meets all industry standards.

There are three other cotton gins in Kansas at Moscow, Winfield and Anthony. About 60 percent of U.S. cotton goes to China.

Cotton is expensive to produce but of all the other local crops, cotton returns a profit and the profit return is great. Net dollar return on an acre is $600 to $800, said producer Kent Goyen.

Cotton requires a lot of spraying, from five to six times a season to control insects and unwanted plants. Producers have to do two or three applications for weeds. Producer Stuart Briggeman said they spray herbicide and pesticide at once to save money. It takes two cotton balers from eight to 10 hours to harvest a 130 acre irrigated circle of cotton. Cotton balers are the latest equipment advance in the industry. They are $600,000 a piece and Sewell said there could be 10 more balers in the area this year. A baler reduces the equipment to one machine and reduces the number of people needed to harvest to two.

Sewell said cotton producers have problems with cotton that are susceptible to herbicides. Applicators have to know cotton variety and what has been sprayed on other fields close by.

The gin uses every part of a cotton bale. The cotton lint goes to clothes manufacturing, the seed goes to dairies for a feed supplement, the burrs go to feed lots also for a food supplement. Some of the leftover cotton material (mote) is used to make cotton swabs and toilet paper.

Pratt Community College donated bus transportation for the tour.