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Deutsche Bahn Commits to Ecological Alternative to Glyphosate in Sustainable Vegetation Management

Deutsche Bahn Commits to Ecological Alternative to Glyphosate in Sustainable Vegetation Management
photo: Archive/Deutsche Bahn Commits to Ecological Alternative to Glyphosate in Sustainable Vegetation Management
14 / 03 / 2023

Deutsche Bahn will stop using glyphosate from 2023. The company is thus consistently implementing its phase-out of the use of the herbicide, which was already announced in 2019.

The EU Commission last decided at the end of 2022 to extend the approval of glyphosate until December 2023. As an alternative against the growth of vegetation on the track, DB relies on sustainable vegetation management, which provides for a coordinated interaction of various measures. These include digital vegetation control, the use of mechanical-manual methods and the use of pelargonic acid. The approval for the use of pelargonic acid was granted in February 2023 by the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) in close coordination with the lead Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and the Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV). The use of pelargonic acid is still subject to approval by the Federal Railway Authority (EBA).

Dr Richard Lutz, DB CEO: "We are keeping our word and will completely phase out the use of glyphosate in 2023. In doing so, we as DB are assuming responsibility for environmentally and climate-friendly protection of track systems. After examining a variety of alternative methods, I am pleased that we can rely on an ecological alternative to glyphosate in the future."

Cem Özdemir, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture: "Deutsche Bahn is taking an important step towards the complete phase-out of glyphosate, as we agreed in the coalition agreement. I expressly support this responsible concept for more species protection. I am particularly pleased to see how consistently and ambitiously DB is pursuing the goal of ensuring more ecological rail operations in the long term."

Dr Volker Wissing, Federal Minister for Digital Affairs and Transport: "The fact that Deutsche Bahn can replace glyphosate with a new herbicide illustrates how important innovation and progress are for our country. They are the basis for new solutions and thus for more environmental and species protection."

Reliable vegetation control is a prerequisite for safe railway operations because root growth in the track bed impairs its functionality. In addition to chemical vegetation control, DB is also increasingly pushing alternative methods and is in intensive exchange with other European railways - especially ÖBB, SBB and SNCF. For example, the Group is working on the further technological development of electro-weeding and mowing equipment, such as a semi-autonomous mowing caterpillar. These innovative processes are not yet available for use in railway operations.

DB has already more than halved the use of glyphosate since 2020 compared to 2018. Among other things, modern camera systems for plant detection have contributed to a more precise application and thus reduction of glyphosate. Since then, large parts of the German rail network have no longer been treated with the herbicide.

Source: Deutsche Bahn