Follow Us On

Dr. Madhugiri Nageswara-Rao

Geneticist & Ornamental Project Lead,
United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service,
Subtropical Horticulture Research Station
Miami, USA


Madhugiri Nageswara-Rao, works as a Geneticist (Ornamental plants lead) with the USDA-ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station, Miami, FL. His research focuses on Subtropical and Tropical Ornamental Genetic Resource Management, Conservation, Characterization and improvement. Before joining USDA-ARS, Dr. Rao worked with USDA-APHIS on regulatory sciences at Linden, NJ. He has worked in Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Industries (Alkem Laboratories, Benson Hill Inc.), and with various Universities (Univ. of Florida, Univ. of Tennessee, New Mexico State University). Dr. Rao has diverse expertise in working with population genetics, conservation biology, ecological assessment, regulatory science, disease resistance, and genomics of various ornamental plants (e.g., coreopsis, amaryllis, bamboo, palms, daylily, and sandal), fruit crops (e.g., citrus, grapes, pineapple, mango, avocado and papaya), agricultural plants (e.g., corn, soybean, rice and sunflower) and forest wild species (e.g., phyllanthus, terminalia, teak and rattans etc.). He successfully developed>1.5 billion bp transcriptome resource data for Leucaena that will provide important resources for legume comparative genomics, plant breeding and plastid genetic engineering. He also collaborated in the most comprehensive phylogenetic analyses of 3,696 legume species, which led to vital information about the new classification of Leguminosae and represented a consensus view of the international legume systematics community.

His research was 1st to record empirical data on transgenic switchgrass pollen dispersal and pollination distances directly in the field. Dr. Rao developed and optimized methods for sensitive detection of GE vs non-GE papayas using highly sensitive real-time PCR based detection technique. He developed a simple, sensitive, and rapid detection method for large-scale detection of HLB (citrus greening) directly under field conditions. He developed quick marker-assisted system for the identification of true nucellar seedlings, improved the accuracy of early selection (with-in 3-4 months as opposed to 5-7 years in traditional screening) in citrus genetic improvement programs. He collaborated with colleagues to develop high throughput EST maps that support citrus breeding and genomics programs. Dr. Rao was instrumental in identifying the natural, commercial, and cultivated wildflower populations of Coreopsis. He mapped the genetic diversity ‘hot-spots’ for germplasm collection in medicinal and economically important plant species using advanced GIS tools as well as various molecular markers. Dr. Rao successfully developed ‘geographic gene maps’, and proposed viable long-term strategies for their germplasm improvement, management, and efficient in-situ conservation. The study, perhaps the 1st in the global biodiversity hot spots, in the Western Ghats and Himalayan regions, emphasizes the need for developing strategies for long-term conservation, bioprospecting, and genetic improvement programs.  

Dr. Rao’s research contributions have been published in several reputed and peer-reviewed international journal articles. He has also contributed various book chapters, co-edited international books, and made > 100 scientific presentations in various national and international scientific meetings. Dr. Rao’s outreach activities include conducting trainings, workshops, interacting with farmers, and responding to stakeholder needs. For his research on agriculture and plant sciences, Genome Technology magazine, NY, USA featured him as ‘Tomorrow’s Principal Investigators: Rising Young Investigators’, and as a team member his citrus genetics work has been broadcasted on Fox News, USA. He was also selected for AAAS/Science Program for Excellence in Science and secured ‘Silver Award’ as a team member from American Museum of Natural History, USA.



Research Interest

  • Subtropical and Tropical Ornamental Genetic Resource Management, Conservation, Characterization and improvement