Leela grew up in a rural part of southern India. She received her B.S degree in Agriculture from Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University and M.S degree in Plant Pathology from Kerala Agricultural University in India. She received her Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from Auburn University, AL. Before joining UMASS, Sai Sree conducted research on diseases of leafy vegetables in India; peanuts at Auburn University, AL; Kentucky bluegrass and apples at Oregon State University, Oregon; and rice at Texas A&M University, Texas.
Leela’s research efforts at UMASS-Cranberry Station focus on the development of novel, environmentally-friendly, cost-effective and sustainable integrated disease management strategies for organic and conventional cranberry production systems. Her research program also focuses on understanding the factors affecting disease occurrence and management. Her lab initiated a cranberry fruit rot study. Cranberry fruit rot is a complex disease associated with as many as 15 fungal species. Although cranberry fruit rot has been affecting cranberry cultivation for more than a century, individual roles of these fungal pathogens, their life cycles have not been elucidated. Through her fruit rot study, she seeks to improve our understanding of cranberry fruit rot, roles of microbes associated with it; knowledge of which is vital for devising better management strategies. Other areas of her research include cranberry microbiome, disease forecasting and fungicide resistance
Leela’s extension efforts focus on 1) establishing UMASS-Cranberry Diagnostic lab and providing timely identification and management guidelines to growers 2) educating growers, crop consultants through extension outreach.