IELTS General Training Reading: Worm Farms
One of my Academy Members sent me this tricky diagram to label!
The topic is a key IELTS issue – reducing food waste, recycling, pollution and sustainable agriculture.
Use these strategies to help you find the correct answer:
- use your general knowledge to make ‘educated guesses’ (what kind of water is beneath the soil?)
- decide what type of answer the space needs (a machine? a gas? something in the ground?)
- use word forms and synonyms to help you guess, even if you don’t know the meaning (what do you call a machine that compacts things?)
- cross off any answers that don’t fit (a machine is not a gas or a tray or water)
8 of the words from this text are in the Top 10 list of key vocabulary about agriculture/farming in the Members Academy.
Knowing these keywords will help you understand what the text/diagram is about and help you make accurate guesses.
Listen to the podcast and explanations here.
Read the text below, and answer questions 8-14.
The big picture
While it is true that food and garden waste is less destructive than inorganic matter, its disposal is still problematic, especially when buried in vast amounts, as happens in metropolitan areas. Since land is at a premium, landfill facilities almost invariably mechanically compact organic waste, causing acidic reactions in the airless environment belowground. This means methane is released into the atmosphere, and impurities leach into groundwater, which would otherwise be potable.
Even if householders are unaware of the dangers of landfill, some dispose of food scraps in worm farms, an innovation from the 1990s, because, as well as speedily breaking down material, the animals produce nutrient-rich castings – shed skin and other excreta – that can be used as fertilizer.
For apartment-dwellers, a worm farm 40 cm in diameter and 50 cm in height can sit on a balcony; for people with gardens, a larger farm one metre by one metre is suitable. There are two layers to a worm farm, although as the number of worms grows, more layers can be added. The top layer, a deep plastic tray with tiny holes in the bottom, contains the scraps and the worms. The bottom tray traps the castings, which can be scooped out for use as is or diluted into liquid fertilizer.
The little creatures
Worms consume waste so fast that five kilograms will be broken down within eight weeks. Essentially, worms eat anything that was once living. Favourites include:
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Teabags and leaves; coffee grounds
- Torn-up newspaper, egg or pizza cartons
- Eggshells (to restore the pH balance)
- Dust from dustpans or vacuum cleaner
- Hair and nail clippings
To fatten worms, flour or milk powder can be added to the farm from time to time.
NB: Worms will eat meat and cheese, but only when no other food is available. Most citrus peel and tomatoes are too acidic for worms, so they are best avoided.
*A worm is a small, pink or brown animal with no legs or bones that lives in soil.
Questions 8-11 Label the items below.
Write the correct letter A – F, next to questions 8 – 11
A Castings Tray
B Clean groundwater
D Food-and-worm tray
E Greenhouse gas
F Polluted groundwater
Questions 12 – 14
Answer the questions below
Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS OR A NUMBER for each answer.
12. How many kilograms of waste can worms break down within eight weeks? ……………….
13. Which food may improve the worms’ pH balance? …………………………………….
14. Which two kinds of food will worms eat as a last resort? …………………………………….
8 C – Compactor
9 E – Greenhouse gas
10 F – Polluted groundwater
11 D – Food-and-worm-tray
12 5/five (not 5 Kgs)
13 egg shells
14 meat and cheese
8. landfill facilities almost invariably mechanically compact organic waste, causing acidic reactions in the airless environment belowground.
Look at the diagram – the tractor is a kind of machine which compacts food waste. So you need to look for a noun like ‘tractor’ = compactor.
9. This means methane is released into the atmosphere,
In the diagram, you are looking for something which goes up into the air. This is a gas. Methane is a gas – so the only answer is greenhouse gas.
10. and impurities leach into groundwater, which would otherwise be potable.
In the diagram, the only thing that is beneath the landfill is groundwater. Is it polluted or clean? Because of the impurities, it is polluted groundwater.
11. There are two layers to a worm farm, although as the number of worms grows, more layers can be added. The top layer, a deep plastic tray with tiny holes in the bottom, contains the scraps and the worms. The bottom tray traps the castings…
12. Worms consume waste so fast that five kilograms will be broken down within eight weeks.
13. Eggshells (to restore the pH balance).
14. Worms will eat meat and cheese, but only when no other food is available (as a last resort).