Getting Better
19/06/2024

From the Diary of an Unsung Climate Protector

I’m lying about five centimeters beneath the dark, damp earth. It's quiet all around me, but that doesn’t bother me—I have neither eyes nor ears. I rarely see the sun, and I don’t particularly like it. I live here under a field, where the soil is loose and moist—just the way I like it. It’s perfect for me to move around and dig. I’m really good at it. With my long body, I can dig tunnels up to five meters deep into the ground. Who am I? That’s right! I’m an earthworm, and I live on a farm. Or rather, beneath it, because the soil of the field is my home.

The farm belongs to Julia. She has other animals and lots of green space. I live here with many other earthworms. Unlike many of my fellow wigglers, I'm doing pretty well on Julia's farm. There are no big machines running over our soil. Instead, Julia lets nature do its thing. Plants grow all year round and their remains fall down to us. That's great. I don't have to worry about being sliced in half by a sharp blade or dragged to the surface where I might end up as lunch for large birds. That's another reason I prefer to be active at night. Hidden underground, I have my peace and quiet.

Even though it gets crowded at times underground, it's not that bad. Hundreds, even thousands of us live here. We're good diggers and can spread out into the depths. Our tunnels can get incredibly long and deep, forming a huge labyrinth in the ground. When it rains, our tunnels soak up the water like a sponge, keeping the plants watered even during long periods of sunshine.

We earthworms are simple creatures. We dig a lot and eat all day long. I manage to eat about half my body weight every day. I thrive in Julia's field because the soil is untouched, which means nothing spoils my appetite. I'm surrounded by treats waiting to be eaten: leaves, plant debris, and other tiny organisms invisible to the human eye. Since I don't have teeth, I wait for these goodies to decompose or be chopped into bite-sized pieces by my friends, fungi and bacteria. Then I can pull the tasty bits into my burrow and enjoy them.

Now comes the somewhat unappetizing but very important part: after I digest my food, I excrete it back into the soil. What I excrete returns important nutrients to the soil, which you humans call humus. The more we earthworms eat and excrete, the more humus is created, helping plants grow. We also manage to keep this colorless and odorless gas in the soil—the gas that makes our earth warmer and warmer. Scientists call it "carbon dioxide," a tricky word. Anyway, the more carbon dioxide we trap in the ground, the more we help keep the earth cool.

And I like it cool best. But that only works if I have enough to eat, and that only happens if you let the soil rest. You call it regenerative agriculture. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I know I feel very good here. So, keep it up!

Why are we letting a worm do the talking?

The farm where this worm lives belongs to Julia Vogt-Selmayer. She has been practicing regenerative agriculture for four years.  Through our partnership with Klim, we are helping Julia and many other farmers transition away from conventional methods. A few weeks ago, our Corporate Communications team had the opportunity to see first-hand how regenerative agriculture is practiced on her farm. Among other things, we learned that earthworms play a central role. That's why we're giving them a voice here.

Moreover, the earthworm speaks not only for itself but also for the many others of its kind that inhabit Julia's farm—around 200 per square meter of field. They dig, tunnel, and aerate the soil. This is crucial because regenerative agriculture avoids plowing; instead, the soil is left to nature and remains green year-round. Thanks in part to earthworms, this process produces humus, which is not only an excellent fertilizer, but also has a positive effect on the climate.

The more humus present in the soil, the more carbon dioxide it can absorb. A single earthworm can capture up to 1.3 kilograms of CO2 per year; with 200 worms per square meter, that amounts to 260 kilograms of CO2. This is roughly equivalent to the emissions from driving 2,000 kilometers. One of the primary roles of earthworms is to store carbon, helping to offset gases produced by industry, agriculture, or everyday activities such as driving. In essence, they act as small-scale climate protectors.

However, they can only fulfill this vital function under specific conditions, most importantly minimally tilled soils. The more farmers like Julia adopt regenerative farming practices, the more earthworms can thrive and contribute. Not only good for the worms and the soil, but climate overall.


As part of its sustainability strategy, Burda has been promoting regenerative agriculture since 2021. In cooperation with the Bioland Foundation and the agritech company Klim, Burda supports farmers in switching from conventional methods to regenerative practices. After all, it's not just the earthworm that benefits from healthy soil, but also the climate and therefore us humans.

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