Humanity is facing a crisis due to global population growth and climate change, resulting in water scarcity, hunger, fossil fuel depletion, environmental degradation, the risk to energy security, and the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, monkeypox, etc. Hence, there are serious concerns about the extinction of mankind. Researchers of the Korean Weed Science Society have also been making efforts to solve these problems by utilizing weeds. The authors would like to introduce new research fields with weeds to solve these problems facing mankind. The development of drugs using bioactive substances isolated from different weed species has a long history. The malaria treatment with wormwood is a representative example of drug development from weeds, and 57 species of weeds in Korea have been listed in Dong-Eui-Bo-Gam, which is one of the best traditional herbal medicine books in Korea. In this context, there are more avenues for developing numerous therapeutic agents from weed species in the future. Moreover, weeds are considered to have a very high potential for use in the fields to prevent topsoil loss, increasing soil moisture, bio-energy, and alien terraforming. Alternative fuels (ethanol, diesel, and hydrogen), biomaterials (glycerol, lactic acid, acetone, butanol, propionic acid, butyric acid, citric acid, and succinic acid), special functional substances (antibiotics, polysaccharides, and pesticides), and biopolymers can be obtained from weed biomass using biorefinery technology. Therefore, weeds have many beneficial impacts and can be positively utilized by the future chemical industry in an environmentally friendly way.
Figures & Tables
Fig. 1. Plant-derived drugs developed and marketed in Korea.