Ronald Perry

Ronald Perry

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Professor Emeritus
MSU Extension


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Joined Department

August 1, 1980


  • 34% Research
  • 33% Extension
  • 33% Teaching


Ph.D., Horticulture, Texas A&M University, 1980
M.A., Horticulture, Texas A&M University, 1975
B.S., Fruit Science, Caly Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA, 1968

Specialization and Areas of Interest

  • Orchard and Vineyard Technology
  • High density orchard establishment and management
  • Root system morphology and physiology related to soil dynamics
  • Wine Education

Professional Experience

Professor Horticulture, Horticulture,MSU, Aug 07-present
Professor and Chairperson, Horticulture, MSU, 2002-07
Professor and Acting Chairperson, Horticulture, MSU 2000-02
Professor Horticulture, MSU 1993-2000
Associate Professor, Horticulture, MSU, 1985-1993
Assistant Professor, Horticulture, MSU, 1980-1985
Lecturer and Research Assoc. Hort Science Dept.Texas A&M, 1975-1980
Research Associate Hort Science Dept.Texas A&M, 1972-1975
Orchard and Vineyard Forman, Crops Science Dept, Cal Poly, SLO, 1966-68

Bio Sketch

I began my career at Michigan State University in 1980 as a tree fruit extension specialist and conducted research on tree fruit rootstocks, soil relations and high density orchard development and management. I served as Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Horticulture from 2000 to 2007 while maintaining an applied research program in ground floor management in organic apples and continuation of assessing new rootstocks for apples. In 2007, I returned to the faculty where I have a 3-way appointment which includes teaching 4 courses; HRT 332 Tree Fruit Production, HRT 430 Exploring Wines and Vines (created), HRT 206 Pruning Woody Perennials (co-created and co-teach) and a new course on Viticulture Canopy Managment HRT 491 being taught and created by Perry and Sabbatini S 2013. I also conduct research and outreach in fruit and vineyard technology. Working close with the fruit industry has always been the most enjoyable part of the job. It has meant working closely with extension educators and growers to solve problems and help our industry transition into the new era in the fruit industry. I have been a resource for various workshops and served as the Educational Coordinator of the Michigan State Horticulture Society. On a wider scope, I also served as Executive Secretary of the International Dwarf Fruit Tree Association (today IFTA) from 1986-1989. I was introduced to orchards as a member of a fruit and nut producing family in the Santa Clara Valley of California. There, our father ran a small family orchard producing apricots, cherries, prunes and walnuts. After high school I furthered my education and interest in fruit production by attending Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo, California and received a B.S. in Fruit Production, in 1969. Following a 3 year stint in the US Army, I worked as a fruit research technician/associate and lecturer in the Department of Hort. Sciences at Texas A&M University, where I concurrently completed the requirements for a Masters and PhD in Horticulture. For my Masters degree, I authored an extension bulletin on a feasibility study for wine grape production for the state, and for my PhD, studied the characteristics of grape root systems and rootstocks as it relates to phytopathogensis of a soil borne pathogen native to SW US. As a research associate, my primary responsibility was to establish wine grape variety trials throughout the state and developed a micro-vinification laboratory to evaluate wine quality associated with field performance. While on faculty at Texas A&M, I also taught courses in propagation, temperate fruit production, viticulture, citrus and subtropicals and tropical horticulture. As Chairperson of the Department of Horticulture, I served as MSU CANR representative on the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, the Michigan State Horticulture Society, among other commodity organizations. Over the years I have also judged wine in competitions for the State of Michigan, Great Lakes Wine Competition, Taster's Guild and the Indy Wine Competition in Indianapolis.


  • Fruit Man of the Year Award, Michigan Association of Pomesters, 2009
  • Distinguished Service Award, Michigan State Hort Society, 2007
  • Distinguished Faculty Award, MSU College of Ag and Nat Res. Alumni Association, 2016
  • ASHS Outstanding Extn Pub. 2005 JASHS, HortSci, and Hort Tech. Gut, L, P. McGhee & R Perry
  • Distinguished Researcher Award from the International Dwarf Fruit Tree Association, 1991
  • Carnegie Fellow, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, Mar - Sept, 1991
  • Distinguished Service Award from the Leelanau County Horticultural Society
  • Distinguished Fruit Specialist Award, Michigan State University Extension

Current Courses Taught

HRT 430 Exploring Wines and Vines

3 credits, Fall of each year, lead instructor


This course is a study of wine, its history, production methods, impacts by climate and culture from a global perspective, application to global grape and wine production techniques, and the economic impact of the wine industry as part of modern agriculture. Descriptive sensory evaluations of wine styles will be conducted in relationship with various food items. The course is designed to provide knowledge and appreciation of wine grape production (Viticulture), wine making (Enology), history, uses, and responsibility. Instruction is offered to help students recognize different aspects of wine quality, classes, styles, and origins of wines. Students will learn how viticulture and varieties play a major role in the final wine product consumed by the buyer. There is no prerequisite to enroll but students must be 21 years of age before the first lecture. Students will taste/consume wine samples in association with lecture topics. Lecture topics include learning about major wine producing regions and various products. Students will be expected to assist with classroom preparations and cleanup in addition to preparing food items and pouring wines in at least one class during the term. Students will also be required to visit one Michigan commercial winery selected from a list of approved companies coordinated by the instructor and submit a summary report. Students must purchase an electronic textbook, "Wine and Other Hospitality Beverages" by C. Borchgrevink and R. Perry. Exams will be administered through the textbook covering reading material in the text and lectures. This course is offered in the evening and constrained to one three-hour lecture per week to facilitate logistics in accessing food and wine samples associated with lecture topics.

* No prerequesite courses, but students must be 21 years of age as of the first lecture.

Research Interests 2016:

Over-The-Row Harvest of Tart Cherry

The Michigan tart cherry industry has only just begun to explore the potential for establishing High Density systems for Tart Cherry. The standard system begun in the 1960s maintains trees with large global canopies (15 feet wide and 16-20 feet high) and no branches below 3-4 feet in height to accommodate the clamping mechanism on the shaker/harvester. Horticultural practices also include applications of Gibberellin growth regulator in the initial five years of planting to avoid fruit set to optimize tree growth and avoid having to harvest trees with mechanical shakers which can injure tree trunks. These practices also enhance the development of large trees by avoiding fruit competition (physiological competition for resources) in the initial years and branch competition in the lower portion of canopies. This system also restricts plant density to a maximum of 240 trees per acre to accommodate harvesting equipment. Meanwhile, commercial operations in Eastern Europe, originally established for hand-harvest of high density small-statured trees, are being converted to over-the-row harvesting systems as labor costs increase. A study conducted from 2008-2010 (Perry, et. al. 2010) found that commercially fabricated over-the-row mechanical harvesters designed for bramble and blueberry can successfully remove fruit from small, compact tart cherry trees. A commercial berry harvester with the mechanism known as the Rotary-Tine-Tower was most effective in removing fruit. Scientists and engineers working with Morello type cherries in Poland have come to similar conclusions. In these preliminary studies, we also found that it was imperative to avoid the establishment of permanent or larger branches perpendicular to the tree row. Our goal will be to develop and maintain canopies in a tree-wall dimension with branches beginning at near ground level. Eventually, we hope to develop a tree wall that will be limited with permanent branching (center core) to 24-36 inches in width and 6-8 feet in height. It will be critical to utilize horticultural practices such as canopy and root pruning to keep canopies compact. Additionally, tree vigor will be restricted due to increased plant density. Plants established in closer spacings provide increased competition for water and nutrients with respect to each other demonstrating that there is an inverse relationship between tree vigor and plant density per acre. We established two high density tart cherry research plantings to further test this hypothesis. A plot was established in 2010 at the NWMHRC, with Montmorency on own roots compared to Gisela dwarfing rootstocks. The Gisela rootstocks have demonstrated dwarfing of sweet cherry at 50-75% in past trials (Perry,, 1996 and Lang, 2000). A second trial was established at the NWMHRC in 2011 to assess the potential of several compact tart cherry varieties and selections. The plot includes two varieties, "Carmine Jewel" and "Crimson Passion" from the University of Saskatchewan breeding program. These plants grow in bush form with multi-leaders, which at maturity, confine canopy dimension to 6-8 ft in width and height (Bors and Sawatzky, 2012). Other compact selections include "Tamaris", "Nana" as well as an MSU selection compared to Montmorency. Horticultural practices treatments will be made at Oxley Farms, Lawton, MI (20 acres of HD Montmorency), NWMHRC 2011 plot and CHES Montmorency bush formed trees.


Technical Resource for workshops and field meetings for: tree fruit rootstocks, apple high density management systems, field diagnostics, nursery and propagation work, pruning and training techniques, soil problems and HD Tart Cherry for Over-The-Row harvest work.

Videos and Presentations for Growers and Students:

Planting and Orchard Establishment
    • The Benefits of Trunk Mounding in Honeycrisp Production (NW Orchard and Vineyard Show; Jan 26, 2012; Traverse City, MI)

Rootstocks for Tree Fruit in Michigan
Orchard and Vineyard Sites and Soils
Training and Pruning Systems for Orchards
Home Fruit Production
Micro-Irrigation for Orchards and Vineyards in Michigan

Selected Publications

Perry, R. and P. Sabbatini. 2015. Grape rootstocks for Michigan. MSU Extension bull. E.3298. P.7.

Zoppolo, Roberto, Dario Stefanelli, George W. Bird and Ronald L. Perry. 2011.Soil properties under different orchard floor management systems for organic apple production. Organic Agriculture Volume 1, Issue 4 (2012), Page 231-246. DOI 10.1007/s13165-011-0018-z.

Borchgrevink, Carl and Ron Perry. 2011. Wine and Other Hospitality Beverages, Great Rivers Technology, Dubuque, IA ISBN 978-1-61549-184-1 (Online). Electronic textbook.

Stefanelli, D., Roberto J. Zoppolo, Ronald L. Perry and Franco Weibel. 2009. Organic Orchard Floor Management Systems for Apple Effect on Rootstock Performance in the Midwestern United States. Hortscience 44(2):263-267. 2009.

Toselli, Moreno; Perry, Ronald L.; Flore, James A. 2011. Evaluation of Nitrate-Nitrogen Leaching From Lysimeter-Grown Bearing Apple Trees. Soil Science. Vol 176 (6): 280-287.

Gut, L.J., P.H. McGhee and R. Perry. 2005. Soil Mounding as a Control for Dogwood Borer in Apple. HortScienc. 40(7):2066-2070.

Marini,R.P., J.A.Barden, J.A.Cline, R.L.Perry and T.Robinson 2002. Effect of apple rootstocks on average ‘Gala' fruit weight at four locations after adjusting for crop load. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 127:749-753.

Fernandez, R.T., R.L.Perry & J.A. Flore. 1997. Drought response of young apple trees on three rootstocks: Growth and development. J. Amer.Soc.Hort.Sci. 122:(1): 14-19.

Fernandez, R.T, R.L. Perry and J.A. Flore. 1997. Drought response of young apple trees on three rootstocks. II. Gas exchange, chlorophyll fluorescence, water relations and leaf abscisic acid. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 122:841 848.

Fernandez, R.T., R.L. Perry and D.C. Ferree. 1991. Rooting characteristics of apple rootstocks at two NC-140 trial locations. Fruit Varieties J. 45:264-268.

Beckman, T.G., J.A. Flore and R.L. Perry. 1992. Short-term flooding affects gas exchange characteristics of containerized sour cherry trees. HortScience 27(12):1297-1301.

Hooker, J.E., M. Munro, D. Atkinson and R. Perry. 1992. The effects of VAM fungi on the root morphology of Poplar. In, Root ecology and its Practical Applications. ed. by L. Kutschera, E. Hubl, E. Lichtenegger, H. Persson and M. Sobotik. Pub. Verein fur Wurzelforschung, A-9020 Klagenfurt. pg. 579-582.

Parker, M.L., J. Hull and R.L. Perry. 1993. Orchard floor management affects peach rooting. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 118(6): 714-718.

Melakeberhanm H., G.W. Bird and R.L.Perry. 1994. Plant-parasitic nematodes associated with cherry rootstocks in Michigan. Annals of Applied Nematology 26(4S): 762-772.

Fernandez, R. T., R.L. Perry and D.C. Ferree. 1995. Root distribution patterns of nine apple rootstocks in two contrasting soil types. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci.120(1):6-13.

Hooker, J.E., K.E. Black, R.L. Perry and D. Atkinson. 1995. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi induced alteration to root longevity of poplar. Plant and Soil. Vol. 172: 327-329.

Lipe, W.N. and R.L. Perry. 1988. Effects of rootstocks on wine grape scion vigor, yield and juice quality. HortScience 23:317 321.

Proffer, T.J., A.L. Jones and R.L. Perry. 1988. Testing of cherry rootstocks for resistance to infection by species of Armillaria. Plant Disease 72:488 490.

Perry, R.L. 1987. Cherry rootstocks. In: Rootstocks for Fruit Crops, R.C. Rom and R.F. Carlson (eds.), pp. 217-264. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.

Layne, R.E.C., C.S. Tan and R.L. Perry. 1986. Characterization of peach roots in Fox Sand as influenced by sprinkler irrigation and tree density. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 111:670 677.

Perry, R.L., S.D. Lyda and H.H. Bowen. 1983. Root distribution of four Vitis cultivars. J. Plant and Soil 71:63 74.

Perry, R.L., H.H. Mollenhauer and H.H. Bowen. 1974. Electron photomicroscopy vertification of Pierce's disease on grape plants from Texas. Plant Disease Reporter 58:780 782.

Rootstock Research

Perry, R., J. Hull and J.M. Clements. 2009. Apple scion and rootstock selection and planning for Michigan. Acta Hort. 824:313-318

Stefanelli, D., Yonatan Fridman, and Ronald Perry. 2008. DigiRoot: new software for root studies. European Journal of Horticultural Science. 74(4):169-174.

Autio, W. T. Robinson, W. Cowgill, C. Hampson, M. Kushad, R. P. Quezada, R. Perry, and C.R.Rom. 2008. Performance of "Gala' Apple trees on Supporter 4, P.14, and Different Strains of B.9, M.9, M.26 Rootstocks: A Five-Year Report on the 2002 NC-140 Apple Rootstock Trial. J. Amer. Pom. Soc. 62(3): 119‐128.

Autio W., L. Anderson, B. Barritt, J. Cline, R. Crassweller, C. Embree, D. Ferree, E. Garcia, G. Greene, E, Hoover, S, Johnson, K. Kosola, J. Masabni, M. Parker, R. Perry, G. Reighard, T. Robinson. 2007. Early performance of 'Fuji' and 'McIntosh' apple trees on several dwarf rootstocks in the 1999 NC-140 rootstock trial. Acta Hort. 732:119-126.

Autio W., L. Anderson, B. Barritt, J. Cline, R. Crassweller, C. Embree, D. Ferree, E. Garcia, G. Greene, E, Hoover, S, Johnson, K. Kosola, J. Masabni, M. Parker, R. Perry, G. Reighard, T. Robinson. 2007. Early performance of 'Fuji' and 'McIntosh' apple trees on several semidwarf rootstocks in the 1999 NC-140 rootstock trial. Acta Hort. 732:127-134.

Robinson, T., L. Anderson, A. Azarenko, B. Barritt, G. Brown, J. Cline, R. Crassweller, P. Domoto, C. Embree, A. Fennell, D. Ferree, E. Garcia, A. Gaus, G. Greene, C. Hampson, P. Hirst, E. Hoover, S. Johnson, M. Kushad, R. Marini, R. Moran, C. Mullins, M. Parker, G. Reighard, R. Perry, J.P. Privé, C. Rom, T. Roper, J. Schupp, M.Warmund, W. Autio, W. Cowgil, K. Taylor, D. Wolfe. 2004. Performance of Cornell-Geneva Rootstocks in Multi Location NC-140 Rootstock Trials across North America. Acta Hort. 658:241-245.

Marini, R.P., J.L. Anderson, B.H. Barritt, G.R. Brown, J. Cline, W.P. Cowgill Jr., P.A. Domoto, D.C. Ferree, J. Garner, G.M. Greene, C. Hampson, P. Hirst, M.M. Kushad, E. Mielke, C.A. Mullins, M. Parker, R.L.Perry, J.P. Prive, T. Robinson, C.R. Rom, T. Roper, J.R. Schupp, E. Stover, R. Unrath. 2000. Performance of ‘Gala' apple on four semi-dwarf rootstocks; A five year summary of the 1994 NC-140 Semi-dwarf rootstock trial. J. of the American Pomological Society 54(2) 84-91.

Marini, R.P., J.L. Anderson, B.H. Barritt, G.R. Brown, J. Cline, W.P. Cowgill Jr., P.A. Domoto, D.C. Ferree, J. Garner, G.M. Greene, C. Hampson, P. Hirst, M.M. Kushad, E. Mielke, C.A. Mullins, M. Parker, R.L.Perry, J.P. Prive, T. Robinson, C.R. Rom, T. Roper, J.R. Schupp, E. Stover, R. Unrath. 2000. Performance of ‘Gala' apple on 18 dwarf rootstocks; A five year summary of the 1994 NC-140 Semi-dwarf rootstock trial. J. of the American Pomological Society 54(2) 92-107.

Perry, R.L. and G. Byler. 2001. Effects of 19 Rootstocks on the Performance of Imperial Gala Grown in the V System. Proceedings of the VII International Symposium on Orchard and Plantation Systems . Acta Horticulturae. 557, Pub by ISHS, Leuven, Belgium, pg 77-81.

Perry, R. G. Lang, R. Andersen, L. Anderson, A. Azarenko, T. Facteau, D. Ferree, A. Gaus, F. Kappel, F. Morrison, C. Rom, T. Roper, S. Southwick, G. Tehrani and C. Walsh. 1996. Performance of the NC-140 Cherry rootstock trials in North America. 39th Ann. Conf, International Dwarf Fruit Tree Association, Feb 25-29, 1996, Penticton, British Columbia, Canada. Compact Fruit Tree Vol. 29:37-56.

Perry, R. 1997. The performance of ‘Jonagold' and ‘Empire' apple in an NC-140 rootstock and orchard systems trial in Michigan. Acta Hort. 451: 453-458.

Grieshop, M and R. Perry. 2011. Strip Cultivation As An Alternative For Weed Control. Growing Produce, May 2011.

Program Areas

Fruit - Pomology

Rootstock evaluation of tree fruit (1980-2006)

A principal part of the tree rootstock research program is spent on evaluating new rootstocks for our primary crops in Michigan; apple, cherry, peach and plum. The goal for these crops is to find rootstocks that can help make tree production a profitable and sustainable enterprise. In apple, we have focused on finding new rootstocks that adapt to Michigan conditions and fit into high density modern planting systems. These stocks are also being evaluated under various management systems. These trials serve a dual purpose in generation of data for research with findings disseminated to growers directly or through extension educators. Field testing of rootstocks is still a long term process of some 10-20 years which today is carried out by Dr. Greg Lang at MSU. The apple industry is almost exclusively planting many of the dwarfing clonal rootstocks in new Vertical Axe and Tall Spindle plantings. For tart cherry, the standard seedling rootstock, Mahaleb, is still the standard which has been used for over 300 years. We continue to try new rootstocks which can reduce tree canopy size, resist soil maladies such as anaerobic soils, Phytophthora and Armillaria. Sweet cherry has been following apple industry lead by focusing on rootstocks which reduce canopy size to facility fresh harvest and like tart cherry for the processing industry, rootstocks that resist soil maladies. The peach industry still relies primarily on peach seedling rootstocks but seeks clonal rootstocks which resist anaerobic soil conditions. As a leader in the NC 140 Regional rootstock trial committee on pome and stone fruit rootstocks, rootstock researchers at MSU have coordinated and organized trials in a number of states and regions.

Perennial root system studies related to soil dynamics

Over the years we have graduate students working on projects related to soil dynamics and physiology of fruit tree rootstocks and their root systems. Work was conducted on the relationship of soil stresses to the decline of cherry trees. Root system studies were conducted on the impact of root system health, morphology and longevity. We conducted field studies in growing tart cherry, apple and peach on raised beds at the Clarksville Hort Exp Station. We found after 10 years that cherry and peach survival was much higher on beds and that apple on MM 106 rootstock was not affected. The soil and site selected for the study was more well drained than expected and desired.