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 As early as 1965, a booklet of published abstracts was handed out at the meeting, which was specifically marked “Not for publication/does not constitute a recommendation”, emphasizing the preliminary or ongoing nature of the research discussed.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.
Following the passing of long-time OPDMC member Peter Westigard in 2012, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to adopt “Peter’s Tree” as the new logo for OPDMC. Betty LaDuke Westigard, Peter’s wife, created the pear tree to honor Peter's life and career. The new logo is displayed prominently on the OPDMC web site and has been featured on the cover of the abstract booklet since 2012.
An enduring tradition of informality is the nomination, voting, and awarding of the Rubber Chicken to one of the presenter during the closing business meeting. The Rubber Chicken may be awarded for a variety of reasons, but egregious behavior in some aspect of presenting a scientific talk is the underlying theme: too long, too short, poor organization, illegible slides, and over-spinning research results are frequently cited.
Notables who have received the award include:
- Clancy Davis, Berkeley, California for his quiet, sober, professional demeanor on all occasions.
- Stan Hoyt, Wenatchee, Washington for failing to enliven methods of presentation of papers.
- Don Berry, Medford, Oregon for never having made a single comment over 20 years.
- Pete Westigard, Medford, Oregon for returning from a sabbatical with 400 color slides (all failures) and a new child (a success).
'Winners' in the Modern Era (following about a 15 year hiatus, the award was revived during the 75th anniversary meeting):
- Rachel Elkins (2001), University of California, Clear Lake, for using an overhead projector in a digital age.
- Jay Brunner (2002), Washington State University, Wenatchee, for giving one of the looooongest talks in the history of the WOPDMC (Seriously. His 10-minute talk was an hour).
- Doug Light (2003), USDA, Albany, California, for showing incomprehensible data slides again and again and again. (Chemists….)
- Stephen Welter (2004), University of California, Berkeley, for inappropriate behavior by leaving the meeting prior to giving his presentation.
- Bob Van Steenwyk (2005), University of California, Berkeley, Bob suffered at the hands of technology and he could have been forgiven for these technical glitches; however the membership was in a surly mood after the prolonged business meeting. Bob graciously accepted the award.
- Alan Knight (2006), USDA-ARS, Wapato, Washington, for not submitting a talk.
- Andy Kahn (2007), Wenatchee, Washington, for giving a much too long presentation and refusing to yield the podium - Andy subsequently decapitated our alopeciate friend.
- Jim Miller (2008), Michigan State University, for attempting to coerce the entire membership into his cult of the pheromone, and for admitting to having intimate relations with codling moths; Jim was responsible for the demise of yet another unfeathered friend.
- Peter Shearer (2009), Oregon State University, Hood River, for forgetting, like Dorothy, that he was not in Rutgers anymore (For those of you not present, he gave his talk as the new director of the Hood River Station MACAREC, using the Rutgers template).
- Harvey Reissig (2010), Cornell University, Geneva, for his presentation that introduced a new web-based IPM decision support system for NY apple growers that was actually a chemical spray calendar disguised as an IPM program (well played, Harvey, well played…).
- John Dunley (2011), Wilbur-Ellis, Cashmere, Washington, for not being present each morning to turn on the lights, the projector, and the laptop computer before the meeting began. He also assumed that at least one of the many well-educated members of the Conference (ahem, BrocZoller), most of whom were lugging their own laptops, would be able to find the correct button to turn on the conference laptop, and that labels on the two (!) cords would make the connections between the laptop and projector clear. He was proven to be incorrect.
- Larry Gut (2012), Michigan State University, for now conducting research on pheromone puffers (and finding them effective) after 'pooh-poohing' them for many years.
- Don Thomson (2013), DJS Consulting Services, for delivering the keynote speaker’s address in his introduction of Camille before she had a chance to deliver her own presentation. Also, Don temporarily lost the rubber chicken in the foyer, but he did later recover it.
- Doug Light (2014), USDA ARS, Albany, California, for blatantly promoting his own product during his presentation.
- Brad Higbee (2015), Paramount Farms, CA, for delivering an extended talk under false pretenses, breaking the new OPDMC computer, and bragging about his 40 acre research plots.