Luxembourg will be the first European country to prohibit its farmers from using glyphosate. The herbicide will be completely banned as of 1 January 2021. Having prepared for such a move in recent years, winemakers have committed to cease using it this year ahead of schedule.
Romain Schneider, Minister for Agriculture and Viticulture, confirmed early this year that Luxembourg will honour its commitments made in 2018 and ban the use of glyphosate on 1 January 2021. The chemical is used in Roundup, but has also been sold under many other names since it entered the public domain in 2000. As a result of the new measures, Luxembourg will become the first guaranteed glyphosate-free country in the European Union. All its winemakers have already pledged to stop using the chemical this year ahead of schedule.
Although stocks can be sold until 30 June 2020, the withdrawal of the marketing authorisation for glyphosate-based plant protection products has already been in force since 1 February. While their use will be tolerated until the end of the year, from 1 January 2021, “anyone infringing the ban may face penalties and be reported to the public prosecutor,” said the minister.
The government has put together a raft of financial incentives to ensure its goals are achieved. “Farmers ceasing to use glyphosate-based plant protection products in the 2019/20 crop year will receive compensation through the ‘premium for maintaining the landscape and natural environment’,” said a source from the ministry, adding that “winemakers who voluntarily pledge to cease any herbicide use in their vineyards will receive compensation of €500-550 per hectare depending on the gradient of their land.”
This minor revolution has gone smoothly on the Moselle, as winemakers were given plenty of advance warning and had sufficient time to prepare. Moreover, the vast majority were already convinced that the move was sensible and feasible. Many estates have already invested in equipment capable of performing mechanical weeding, thus enabling chemicals to be abandoned (see interview with Jean Cao, which follows this article).
However, glyphosate was not used in large quantities in hillside vineyards. It was diluted to spray a 25cm-wide strip beneath the vine stocks, with approximately one litre used per hectare. This was done for two reasons – firstly to ensure water supply to the vine stocks by limiting competition and secondly to prevent weeds from growing in the middle of the plant and generating moisture conducive to fungal growth.
Although glyphosate has been ubiquitous in the past decades, few will miss it. Ern Schumacher, chairman of the independent winegrowers, who has not used the chemical for some time, says that he “is very pleased to see glyphosate banned in Luxembourg”. Vinsmoselle chairman Josy Gloden agrees: “Personally, I’ve got machines, so it’s not a problem. Nowadays, it is easy to work without glyphosate and feasible to avoid using any chemical herbicides whatsoever.”