This meeting has a long and illustrious history, and has been held annually since 1926. At the instigation of J. R. Parker, Associate Entomologist, Montana Agricultural Experiment Station, the first meeting was held in Tacoma, Washington. It was originally known as the “Western Cooperative Oil Spray Project”, a reminder of the importance of petroleum oil sprays in the arsenal of early entomologists.
The meeting was originally an exchange of research information among state and federal researchers working in the area of tree fruit pest control. As early as 1965, a booklet of published abstracts was handed out at the meeting, which was specifically marked “Not for publication/does not constitute a recommendation”, emphasizing the preliminary or ongoing nature of the research discussed. Only about 25 contributors are listed for that meeting, representing CA, CO, ID, MT, OR, UT, WA, and BC. The meeting was divided into sections based on crop (pome fruits, stone fruits, nuts), with separate sections on diseases and spray residues/compatibility. By this time, the meeting had settled at the Imperial Hotel in the heart of downtown Portland, and either because of the central location or cheap rates, remained there for decades.
By the early 1970s, the name had been changed to the “xxnd Annual Western Orchard Pest and Disease Management Conference”, or affectionately, as “WOPDMC” (pronounced “wop-dee-em-see”). The meeting structure had also changed to pest groups vs. crop groups – viz., lepidopterous insects, mites, and other, emphasizing the importance of the two former groups in pest management issues of the time. Codling moth was as popular a topic in the 1970s as it is today.
The abstracts of the 1965 meeting were printed by Oregon State University, and the research and extension personnel of the OSU Department of Entomology were instrumental in organizing the meeting: printing the abstracts, taking in registration fees, providing A/V equipment (read: overhead and slide projectors!). In the early 2000s, the torch was passed to Washington State University upon the retirement of OSU’s indefatigable Deanna Watkins, who had taken care of the nuts and bolts for many years. The WOPDMC joined the electronic age, and information on meeting dates and presentation preparation were placed on a website. WSU’s Bette Brattain spent endless hours OCR scanning and recreating the abstracts from the earliest known booklet, and IT lead Jerry Tangren (WSU-TFREC) oversaw the evolution of the website from its infancy. By the 2012 meeting, meeting registration was electronic, and presentations were uploaded and linked to the agenda prior to meeting. The last presentation given by overhead projector was Rachel Elkins in the basement of the Benson Hotel in 2001. That same meeting was made memorable by a talk by Steve Welter – “The Legend of Lucky” – regarding pheromone mating disruption by puffers. It is the only talk in living memory to receive a standing ovation not occasioned by a shortage of chairs.
In 1995, the meeting structure was changed again around subdisciplinary topics (biological control, chemical control, pesticide resistance, biology/phenology, and mating disruption/SIR). This structure remains essentially in effect at this writing (2012), although the resistance section has been combined with the Chemical Control section due to diminishing participation. A new section was added in 2011, due to apparent need: Invasive Species. The sudden appearance of four new pests (spotted wing drosophila, brown marmorated stink bug, lightbrown apple moth, and European grapevine moth) were the impetus to this section.
In 2001, the WOPDMC celebrated its 75th Anniversary, with a well-lubricated reception hosted by the manager of the Imperial Hotel. Sadly, the hotel was sold shortly thereafter, and the WOPDMC began looking for a new home; truth be told, we had outgrown the tiny meeting room at the Imperial, and would have been forced to move in any event. Downtown Portland was still the venue of choice; we did a “trial meeting” at the Benson just down the street, but eventually settled on the Hilton a few blocks to the south.
The participation of the meeting has evolved over time, and become more inclusive. From an “invitation only” closed-door meeting of researchers, the meeting has expanded to include extension personnel, and then the ag chemical industry and consultants. In 2001, the WOPDMC incorporated in Oregon under the guidance of Don Thompson, the able Executive Director; legalizing the formerly under-the-counter nature of taking in registration fees (well, they were only five bucks). The meeting size and length grew proportionately during these changes,from the original two dozen scientists to >200 participants today. While this has been a fundamental change in the nature of the meeting, there is an ongoing effort to keep the informal nature of the meeting intact. The first order of business of every meeting is for all in attendance to introduce themselves, and no specific limit is placed on the time allowed for each presentation or the ensuing discussion. Discussions are sometimes quite lively, and one of the jobs of the Session Moderators is to act as a moderator, umpire, or bouncer as the need arises.