Neelamraju Gangaprasada Rao obtained his BSc (Agriculture) from the College of Agriculture, Bapatla, Andhra University with a second rank, post-graduation from Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) with a first rank; and PhD in 1968 from Bihar University. He was also awarded DSc (hc) by the Chandrasekhar Azad University of Agriculture and Technology. He held the positions of Lecturer, Osmania University; Sorghum Breeder, IARI; All India Sorghum Improvement Project Coordinator and Head, IARI Regional station at Hyderabad; Professor of Eminence; ICRISAT's Sorghum Breeder in West Africa; Vice-Chancellor, Marathwada Agricultural University; and Chairman, Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board, New Delhi. Rao taught the subjects 'plant breeding and genetics' at the College of Agriculture, Hyderabad, and later at the IARI, New Delhi. Several students obtained MSc and PhD degrees under his supervision.
Academic and Research Achievements: Rao is well-known for basic and applied research in breeding and agronomy of several dry land crops. Due to his contributions to sorghum improvement in India, he is referred to as Father of Hybrid Sorghum in India. The sorghum hybrids CSH1m CSH5 and CSH9 became very popular and were cultivated over 8-10 million hectares. The growth rates of sorghum during the 70s and 80s were comparable to irrigated wheat and rice. Kharif sorghum represented a revolutionary change in the 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. He also made significant contributions to the improvement of dry land crops, particularly long staple desi cotton, red gram, castor, and development of novel cropping systems. He has about 200 research publications in reputed national and international journals.
Other Contributions: Rao served as Consultant to FAO.
Awards and Honours: Professor Rao 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 President of the Indian Society of Genetics and Plant Breeding, and currently President of the Society for Millets Improvement. He was elected Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad; National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi; and Andhra Pradesh Academy of Science.