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Father of Hybrid Sorghum Dr Neelamraju passes away

Wed, Jul 27, 2016, 06:18 PM
Distinguished Agriculture Scientist, Dr Neelamraju Ganga Prasada Rao, passed away in Hyderabad on Wednesday. He was 89.

Dr Rao was well-known for basic and applied research in breeding and agronomy of several dryland crops. Due to his contributions to sorghum improvement in India, he was at times referred to as the ‘Father of Hybrid Sorghum’.

Due to his relentless efforts, sorghum hybrids CSH1, CSH5 and CSH9 became very popular and were cultivated in over eight to 10 million hectares. The growth rates of sorghum during the 1970s and 1980s were comparable to irrigated wheat and rice. Kharif sorghum represented an important change in dry land agriculture of India.

The advent of hybrid sorghum gave rise to the sorghum seed industry on a large-scale. An improved sorghum variety S35 gained popularity in drought-prone areas of
West Africa.

Dr NGP Rao also made significant contributions to the improvement of dry land crops, particularly long staple desi cotton, pigeon-pea, castor, and novel cropping systems. He has some 200 research publications in reputed national and international journals. He held various positions such as Consultant to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Sorghum Botanist and Associate Coordinator, IARI, 1961-68; Project Coordinator (Sorghum), All-India Coordinated Sorghum Improvement Project, IARI, New Delhi, 1968-78; ICAR Professor of Eminence, 1978-80, Regional Station, IARI, Hyderabad; ICRISAT's Regional Sorghum Breeder for West Africa, Ahmedu Bello University, Samaru, Zaria, Nigeria, 1980-83; Vice-Chancellor, Marathwada Agricultural University, Parbhani, Maharashtra, 1984-87; Chairman, Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board, ICAR, 1987-92.

He was awarded the C. Subramaniam Gold Medal (1966) for the development of the first Sorghum Hybrid; SS Bhatnagar Prize for Biological Sciences (1967); Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award for Plant Breeding (1974); and the VASWIK Award for Agricultural Sciences (1979).

Several farmer organizations, including the National Tonnage Club of Farmers, All India Seedsman Association and other organizations conferred him recognition awards.

The Atma Gaurav Award (2003), and the Distinguished Agricultural Scientist Award (2008), were conferred by the Government of Andhra Pradesh. He was earlier the President of the Indian Society of Genetics and Plant Breeding, and President of the Society for Millets Improvement. He was elected Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi; National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad; National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi; and the Andhra Pradesh Academy of Science.

Several students obtained their M.Sc. and Doctoral degrees under his supervision.

Dr N.G.P. Rao was born in Korisapadu in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh. He had his education at the
Agricultural College, Bapatla, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi and Bihar University.

He was also awarded the D.Sc. by the Chandrasekhar Azad University of Agriculture and Technology.

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