Noxious, invasive weeds could be a major source of bioenergy and help to address electricity shortages in developing countries, research has found.
Thousands of plants and fungi are already used to generate energy but it is believed many more could be harnessed with emerging technologies for more sustainable and independent sources of electricity for local communities.
“It’s actually the most noxious invasive weeds that perhaps hold the greatest promise for addressing this problem,” said Dr Olwen Grace, a researcher at London’s Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew.
“This is because weeds, particularly invasive plants, produce huge quantities of biomass in relatively short timeframes and this biomass is actually a very valuable source of the starting material for bioenergies.”
Dr Grace was speaking at the launch of a major report by Kew Gardens called State of the World's Plants and Fungi.
“Really, this is the difference of children being able to do their homework at night, women being able to walk around in the community because street lights are powered for the first time," she said.
"We’re talking about really meaningful differences to people’s lives."
Dr Elisabeth Rianawati, a researcher at the Resilience Development Initiative in Indonesia, said bioenergy could help to play a crucial role in developing countries.
“Bioenergy is an untapped resource in low-income countries that could help to alleviate poverty, enhance community livelihoods and improve energy access in remote areas,” Dr Rianawati said.