Assistant Professor

Research Interests

My research program is designed to address practical fruit grower needs in Montana while improving fundamental understanding of fruit physiology, from roots to fruits.  Current projects include haskap, saskatoon, and sour cherry pre- and postharvest characterization and management, improving apple codling moth and fireblight pest management, nutrient management and the apple root microbiome and metabolome (pending grant transfer), and collaborations for consumer sensory acceptance of small fruits and an online weather-based pest management tools available in Montana (Utah TRAPs).

Current Funded Projects

  • Montana Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) Sept 2019-2022. Supporting emerging needs and enhancing profitability in Montana small fruit production through research, education, and market development. R. Leisso, M. Burgess, W.-Y., Kuo, Z. Miller.
  • Montana SCBG. Sept 2019-2022. Expanding Montana's Apple Industry through Research, Outreach, Education and Orchard Preservation. Z. Miller, R. Leisso, K. Mendrey.
  • USDA NIFA Feb. 2019-Feb. 2020. Equipment grant: Biochemical detection of fruit ripening measures and plant stress volatiles with a Gas Chromatograph-Flame Ionization Detector (GC-FID). R. Leisso, M. Burgess, Z. Miller. 
  • Montana SCBG Dec 2018- Nov. 2019. Supporting Montana apple production through research and education. Z. Miller, R. Leisso, K. Mendrey.
  • Montana SCBG. Sept 2018-2020. Improving cold injury and pest management in apple production: risk and predictive model assessment. R. Leisso, K. Mendrey, Z. Miller.
  • USDA NIFA AFRI ELI. Characterizing genotype-specific apple root biochemistry and its implications for rhizosphere microbial ecology in apple replant disease (ARD)  R. Leisso and M. Mazzola. Currently in transfer process (October 2019).

Updates on the WARC webpage

Utah TRAPs fruit pest management tool

Apple fruit bagging for codling moth control for the homeowner

MSU Extension Fruit Research Sites Summary

Apple ripening and maturity at WARC 2019

National Phenology Network Apple Bloom for Citizen Scientists

Recent publications

  1. Hewavitharana, S., Klarer, E., Reed, A., Leisso, R. S., Poirier, B., Honaas, L., Rudell, D., Mazzola, M. (2019) Temporal dynamics of the soil metabolome and microbiome during simulated anaerobic soil disinfestation. Frontiers in Microbiology.
  2. Leisso, R.S., Hanrahan, I., Mattheis, J.M. (2019) Assessing pre-harvest field temperature and at-harvest fruit quality for prediction of soft scald risk of 'Honeycrisp' apple fruit during cold storage. HortScience 54 (5), 910-915.
  3. Leisso, R.S., Rudell, D.R., Mazzola, M.M. (2018) Targeted Metabolic Profiling Indicates Apple Rootstock Genotype-Specific Differences in Primary and Secondary Metabolite Production and Validate Quantitative Contribution From Vegetative Growth. Frontiers in Plant Science 9: 1336 :1-15.
  4. Leisso, R.S., Rudell, D.R., Mazzola, M.M. (2017) Metabolic composition of apple rootstock rhizodeposits differs in a genotype-specific manner and affects growth of subsequent plantings. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 113:201-214.
  5. Gapper, N.E., Hertog, M.L.A.T.M, Lee, J., Buchanan, D.A., Leisso, R. S., Fei, Z., Qu, G, Giovannoni, J.J., Johnston, J.W., Schaffer, R.J., Nicolai, B.M., Mattheis, J.P., Watkins, C.B., Rudell, D.R. (2017) Delayed response to cold stress is characterized by successive metabolic shifts culminating in apple fruit peel necrosis. BMC Plant Biology 17:77-85.
  6. Leisso, R.S., Mattheis, J.M., Rudell, D.R. (2017) Controlled atmosphere storage, temperature conditioning, and antioxidant treatment alter postharvest 'Honeycrisp' metabolism. HortScience 52: 423-431.