The most modern small-scale reproduction of a commercial cotton gin in the world is ready for researchers to use to help improve the quality of Georgia cotton.

Gov. Sonny Perdue, University of Georgia President Michael F. Adams and other state and agricultural leaders recently opened the UGA MicroGin. It's custom designed and constructed to enable researchers to gin small samples of cotton in a manner that replicates the way cotton is ginned in large, modern gins.

“This facility will allow researchers and farmers to improve upon a commodity already well established here,” Perdue says, “and allow them to follow it from the field to the consumer. This will help our cotton farmers better compete globally.”

Georgia farmers are penalized about five cents per pound of cotton due to fiber quality deductions. Over the past three years, they've lost an average of $24.5 million annually due to poor cotton quality, says Don Shurley, a cotton economist with the UGA Extension Service.

Farmers deliver their cotton, usually in large modules that can weigh 10,000 pounds, to gins, where it is dried, cleaned and ginned, a process that separates the cottonseed from lint. The microgin produces lint that is like the lint that comes out of a commercial gin.

Plans for the facility include cooperative research to improve cotton fiber and textile quality and educational purposes.

The microgin is ready to be used for this fall's cotton harvest.

The microgin project was conceived by the Georgia Agricultural Commodity Commission for Cotton and CAES scientists and engineers, with input from the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association, the Southern Cotton Growers and the private sector.

Funding came from the State of Georgia (Traditional Industries Program), U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Agricultural Commodity Commission for Cotton and UGA CAES.

Georgia's 1.3 million-acre cotton crop during 2003 produced 2.1 million bales with a farm-gate value of more than $700 million.