Yerba mate is a native tree of the Atlantic rainforest of South America. The leaves of this species are the source for a stimulant beverage called “mate”, widely consumed in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil.
The beverage is produced by infusing the leaves with hot water, and it is traditionally served in a hollowed-out gourd with a metal straw. People use to share a mate with others, so it is considered an important social event of everyday life.
Yerba mate is known to be an effective nervous system stimulant and also to contains high amounts of antioxidants, amino acids, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals.
Why I decide to work with this crop?
Firstly, because I am a big fanatic of mate beverage. Secondly and even more important, because there is a problematic of soil degradation in yerba mate plantations that is alarming. Since the last 10 years in Misiones province (the principal area of yerba mate production in Argentina) yerba mate plantations are becoming less and less productive due to a fast proces of soil degradation.
As a biologist I decided to study if yerba mate has beneficial microorganims associated that can be used as inoculants to improve the growth and health of this crop.
The benefits of the bio-inoculation has been exploited in several crops, but principally in annual crops such sugarcane, maize, soybean, etc. However yerba mate is a tree!! So, I asked myself if the inoculation of yerba mate seedlings with native plant growht promoting rhizobacteria could have a positive impact. Fortunately after a field work in Argentina we observed a very promosing response of the plants to the bio-inoculation.
This encouraged me to continue with my mission helping yerba mate!