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2Institute of Research, Training and Development on Crops, Animals and Medicinal plants (IRDCAM), 071 BP 28 Sainte Rita, Cotonou, Benin
Rice, is one of the most important food crops that significantly contributes to food security in Benin. To assess its varietal diversity within the country, 55 villages randomly selected throughout different agro-ecological zones were surveyed using participatory research tools and techniques. Subject to synonymy, 95 varieties including 2 African rice (Oryza glaberrima) and 93 Asian rice (Oryza sativa) were inventoried. The Shannon Diversity Index (H) is 5.62 and reflects an important varietal diversity. The number of varieties recorded varies from 2 to 9 per village (4 on average). In villages where varietal diversity is threatened, the rate of loss, subject to synonymy, varied from 25% to 75% with an average rate of 41% per village. Across villages, the varieties to be produced are selected on the basis of sixteen (16) preference criteria, of which the most important are high productivity (18.22% responses), market value (14.52% of responses), early maturity of varieties (10.48% of responses) and taste (6.92% of responses). Thirteen (13) production constraints were reported by the producers and most of them can be overcomed by the use of high-performing varieties. Participatory evaluation revealed very few effective varieties with regard to biotic and abiotic parameters. The development in Benin of a strong and concerted national rice breeding program is necessary and will help creating novel varieties that will boost national production, food security and income generation.