Nanjappa Shamanna Subbarao did his MSc (1949) from Central College, Bangalore and PhD (1958) from Madras University. Thereafter, he was Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Toronto, Canada (1958-61); Research Officer, University of Madras (1961-63); Bacterial Physiologist, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi (1963-71) Nuffield Foundation Fellow, Rothamsted Experimental Station, England (1968-69); Professor & Head, Microbiology Division, IARI (1971-85); Project Director, Agro-energy, IARI (1986); and INSA Senior Scientist (1987-89), University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore. He was also Visiting Professor, Institute of Microbiology, Moscow (1975), Pasteur Institute, Paris (1976), Nagoya University, Japan (1977), Queens University, Kingston, Canada (1978), McGill University, Montreal (1979), IRNA-CSIC, Salamanca, Spain (1990 & 1993), Michigan State University, USA (1991), and IAEA Expert, Bangladesh (1987).
Academic and Research Achievements: Subbarao focused his research on interactions involving plant and soil microorganisms. A major part of the doctoral thesis was related to detection of early symptoms of Fusarium infected cotton plants. During postdoctoral research, he studied rhizosphere of crop plants and analysed organic compounds exuded by plants; subsequently, using C14O2, S35 and P32 in tomato plants, he demonstrated the absorption of nutrients by root surface fungi and also their reverse transfer from fungi to plant roots. These findings and the techniques used enhanced our knowledge of rhizosphere. At IARI, New Delhi, he worked on N2 fixing Rhizobium and Azospirillum. He studied the role of root nodule surface fungi in rhizobial infection of root hairs in clovers and lucerne, cortical rhizobial infection of stem nodulating Aeschynomene and Neptunia, salinity in relation to root nodulation, quantification of N2 fixation in chickpea using N15, carriers for legume nodule bacterial seed inoculation and synergistic effects of AM fungi and N2 fixing microbes. N2 fixation in cereals and millets was studied by isolation and selection of effective Azospirillum isolates for different varieties. His studies on field testing for performance of N2 fixing bacteria showed that 20-30 kg N/ha N fertilizers can be minimized in cereal and millet cultivation. He authored three books, two out of which having several editions: Soil Microorganisms; Biofertilizers in Agriculture and Forestry and Casuarinas; edited another seven books on Biological N2 Fixation which received international recognition. He guided several MSc and PhD Students.
Other Contributions: Dr Subbarao served as Coordinator of the All India Project on 'Biological N2 Fixation' for several years besides steering Indo-USA projects on 'N2 Fixation and Mycorrhizal Symbiosis'. He was Chairman of ICAR Panel on Microbiology and Member of various committees of INSA, CSIR, DST and many Agricultural Universities.
Awards and Honours: Dr Subbarao won the Sarkar Award by ICAR (1980); Norman E Borlaug Award (1983); Vyas Memorial Lecture Award (1980); and JC Bose Lecture Award (1984). He was elected President of the Association of Microbiologists of India and Fellow of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi.