During the early 1960s, Rao was involved in testing and identifying the best varieties of wheat from Mexico that were then grown in India and changed the country's agriculture scenario forever.
A recipient of the Norman Borlaug Award and the Linker Award, Rao was also honored with India's Padma Shri.
In a condolence message, M.S. Swaminathan, World Food Prize Laureate and former IRRI director general, wrote, “Rao’s contributions to the food security of our country were truly monumental.”
In his contribution to Rice Today magazine's April 2015 issue devoted to Celebrating 50 years of rice research in India, Rao wrote, "India greatly benefited from training its scientists at IRRI through short-, medium-, and long-term assignments. India received considerable value from this international collaboration and I hope it will continue to address additional challenges such as malnutrition, climate change, water shortage, and producing more rice with fewer inputs."
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