Regional manure forum adjusts for COVID-19

A lagoon holds manure at a dairy in Whatcom County, Wash. Five universities will hold a virtual conference in October on managing manure. COVID-19 forced organizers to drop plans for an in-person conference.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced five universities to move a rare regional conference on manure from a Boise hotel to Zoom.

The three-day conference, Oct. 27-29, will have virtual farm tours, speakers, panels and research presentations. The sessions will be mornings only, sparing participants spending the entire day seated in front of a computer. Also, the conference will be free.

There was too much uncertainty to hold out for an in-person conference, said Liz Whitefield, Washington State University Extension coordinator for the livestock nutrient management program in Puyallup.

"It's so unfortunate, but at the same time, this is what we've been given, so we have to make lemonade out of lemons," she said.

The full name of the event is the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West Regional Nutrient Cycling, Soil Health and Food Safety Virtual Conference. There hasn't been one like it 20 years, Whitefield said.

WSU, Oregon State University, the University of Idaho, Montana State University and Utah State University are involved. Many other organizations are contributing to holding the conference.

The agenda is still taking shape. Abstracts of research that could be presented at the conference are due July 17.

Topics will include recycling and capturing manure, food safety, soil health and distributing manure nutrients from farms that have too much to farms that have too little.   

Organizers anticipated 150 to 200 people would attend the conference in Boise, Whitefield said. The registration fee probably would have been $250 to $350, she said.

Zoom will be able to handle up to 1,000 participants, she said. Others can watch the conference on YouTube.

Although the conference is free, registration to participate by Zoom is required.

The advantage of Zoom is being able to ask questions and interact with other participants, Whitefield said.

Organizers expect the conference to provide continuing education credits to certified crop advisers and others.

In the future, the conference may be held more than once every 20 years, said Whitefield, maybe every other year and in person.

To register or submit research abstracts, go to extension.wsu.edu/pmwncfsc.

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