Dr. Praveen Rao Velchala is the First Vice Chancellor of Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University, the youngest State Agricultural University in India, in position since April, 2016. Regarded as a prominent contributor to micro-irrigation scenario in India he conceived, formulated and implemented the world’s largest microirrigation project, Andhra Pradesh Microirrigation Project, for small holder farmers covering over 1.0 million ha under agri-horticultural crops in the southern states of Telangana & Andhra Pradesh.
A strong believer in digital technology outreach to end users, his work in agro knowledge management contributed to developing digital knowledge material on 142 drip irrigated agri-horticultural crops that helped in creating new capabilities, decision criteria for diffusion and adoption, and enhanced stakeholder value. The website www.sugarcanecrops.com on sustainable drip irrigated sugarcane production created by him benefited drip irrigated sugarcane growers in several countries.
A dedicated academician, he has to his credit over 148 research papers in peer reviewed national & international journals, several field irrigation practical manuals, books, crop growing manuals, project documents, DVD films, invited international and national presentations etc., covering different aspects of micro-irrigation and fertigation management. Mentoring budding agronomists is a favorite past time and he stands as an inspiration to many of his students who worked for their masters (11) and doctoral (12) programmes, some of whom have received prestigious national research awards.
His professional commitment has won him several accolades – Life time Achievement (Rythu Nestam) Award (2018), Education Leadership Award (2018), Fellow of CHAI – 2018, Life time Achievement Award (2015), NetAward, Israel (2006) & Leadership Award (2005) for promotion of microirrigation in India, Africa and SE Asia. Best Teacher Award, ANGRAU (1998); MASHAV Fellowship, Israel (1995); Member, Editorial Board of Indian Journal of Agricultural Sciences; Fellow of ISOR, SEE & TAAS; Keynote Speaker for the Combined Universities Congress 2009 in South Africa to name a few. He is an active member of several international professional bodies viz., American Society of Agronomy, Soil Science Society of America, Crop Science Society of America, American Society of Agricultural & Biological Engineers, International Society of Horticultural Science, Asian PGPR Society of Sustainable Agriculture as well as Life Member of several professional bodies in India. He presently serves as Member, Governing Board and AGM of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the apex body for agricultural research and education in India; Expert Member, Technical Evaluation of NICRA Research Projects; Member, Selection Committee of ICAR Emeritus Professor; Member, Revision of ICAR Model Act for SAUs; Member, Regional Advisory Group, NABARD and on several policy making think tanks related to agriculture and rural development in the Telangana State.
Several Educational, Research and Extension reforms initiated by Dr. Rao as VC enabled the PJTSAU achieve 2nd Rank in 2018 among SAUs in India within a short span of 4-years. Institution building activities included establishment of three new agriculture colleges, one food science and technology college and two KVKs in Telangana State. Inter-institutional collaborations were established with Western Sydney University, University of Florida, Purdue University, IRRI, University of Hohenheim for faculty & student exchange and collaborative research projects.