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Organic farming and chemical fertilisers, The Pearl, Scent of Success -IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test with Answers

Pratice Question Types

Reading Passage 1 :

• Yes/No/Not Given
• Summary completion
• Matching Information

Reading Passage 2 :

• Matching Information
• True/False/Not Given
• Summary completion

Reading Passage 3

• Matching Paragraph
• Matching Information
• Multiple Choice Questions


You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-14 which are based on Reading Passage 1 below.

Organic farming and chemical fertilisers

The world's population continues to climb. And despite the rise of high-tech agriculture, 800 million people don't get enough to eat. Clearly it's time to rethink the food we eat and where it comes from. Feeding 9 billion people will take more than the same old farming practices, especially if we want to do it without felling rainforests and planting every last scrap of prairie. Finding food for all those people will tax predicting farmers'—and researchers'—ingenuity to the limit. Yet already, precious aquifers that provide irrigation water for some of the world's most productive farmlands are drying up or filling with seawater, and arable land in China is eroding to create vast dust storms that redden sunsets as far away as North America. "Agriculture must become the solution to environmental problems in 50 years. If we don't have systems that make the environment better not just hold the fort-then we're in trouble," says Kenneth Cassman, an agronomist at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. That view was echoed in January by the Curry report, a government panel that surveyed the future of farming and food in Britain.

It's easy to say agriculture has to do better, but what should this friendly farming of the future look like? Concerned consumers come up short at this point, facing what appears to be an ever-widening ideological divide. In one corner are the techno-optimists who put their faith in genetically modified crops, improved agrochemicals and computer-enhanced machinery; in the other are advocates of organic farming, who reject artificial chemicals and embrace back-to-nature techniques such as composting. Both sides cite plausible science to back their claims to the moral high ground, and both bring enough passion to the debate for many people to come away thinking we're faced with a stark choice between two mutually incompatible options.

Not so. If you take off the ideological blinkers and simply ask how the world can produce the food it needs with the least environmental cost, a new middle way opens. The key is sustainability: whatever we do must not destroy the capital of soil and water we need to keep on producing. Like today's organic farming, the intelligent farming of the future should pay much more attention to the health of its soil and the ecosystem it's part of. But intelligent farming should also make shrewd and locally appropriate use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The most crucial ingredient in this new style of agriculture is not chemicals but information about what's happening in each field and how to respond. Yet ironically, this key element may be the most neglected today.

Clearly, organic farming has all the warm, fuzzy sentiment on its side. An approach that eschews synthetic chemicals surely runs no risk of poisoning land and water. And its emphasis on building up natural ecosystems seems to be good for everyone. Perhaps these easy assumptions explain why sales of organic food across Europe are increasing by at least 50 per cent per year.

Going organic sounds idyllic-but it's naive, too. Organic agriculture has its own suite of environmental costs, which can be worse than those of conventional farming, especially if it were to become the world norm. But more fundamentally, the organic versus-chemical debate focuses on the wrong question. The issue isn't what you put into a farm, but what you get out of it, both in terms of crop yields and pollutants, and what condition the farm is in when you're done.

Take chemical fertilisers, which deliver nitrogen, an essential plant nutrient, to crops along with some phosphorus and potassium. It is a mantra of organic farming that these fertilisers are unwholesome, and plant nutrients must come from natural sources. But in fact the main environmental damage done by chemical fertilisers as opposed to any other kind is through greenhouse gases-carbon dioxide from the fossil fuels used in their synthesis and nitrogen oxides released by their degradation. Excess nitrogen from chemical fertilisers can pollute groundwater, but so can excess nitrogen from organic manures.

On the other hand, relying solely on chemical fertilisers to provide soil nutrients without doing other things to build healthy soil is damaging. Organic farmers don't use chemical fertilisers, so they are very good at building soil fertility by working crop residues and manure into the soil, rotating with legumes that fix atmospheric nitrogen, and other techniques.

This generates vital soil nutrients and also creates a soil that is richer in organic matter, so it retains nutrients better and is hospitable to the crop's roots and creatures such as earthworms that help maintain soil fertility. Such soil also holds water better and therefore makes more efficient use of both rainfall and irrigation water. And organic matter ties up C02 in the soil, helping to offset emissions from burning fossil fuels and reduce global warming.

Advocates of organic farming like to point out that fields managed in this way can produce yields just as high as fields juiced up with synthetic fertilisers. For example, Bill Liebhardt, research manager at the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania recently compiled the results of such comparisons for corn, wheat, soybeans and tomatoes in the US and found that the organic fields averaged between 94 and 100 per cent of the yields of nearby conventional crops.

But this optimistic picture tells only half the story. Farmers can't grow such crops every year if they want to maintain or build soil nutrients without synthetic fertilisers. They need to alternate with soil-building crops such as pasture grasses and legumes such as alfalfa. So in the long term, the yield of staple grains such as wheat, rice and com must go down. This is the biggest cost of organic farming. Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, estimates that if farmers worldwide gave up the 80 million tonnes of synthetic fertiliser they now use each year, total grain production would fall by at least half. Either farmers would have to double the amount of land they cultivate- at catastrophic cost to natural habitat --or billions of people would starve.


That doesn't mean farmers couldn't get by with less fertilizer. Technologically advanced farmers in wealthy countries, for instance, can now monitor their yields hectare by hectare, or even more finely, throughout a huge field. They can then target their fertiliser to the parts of the field where it will do the most good, instead of responding to average conditions. This increases yield and decreases fertiliser use. Eventually, farmers may - incorporate long-term weather forecasts into their planning as well, so that they can cut back on fertiliser use when the weather is likely to make harvests poor anyway, says Ron Olson, an agronomist with Cargill Fertilizer in Tampa, Florida.

Organic techniques certainly have their benefits, especially for poor farmers. But strict "organic agriculture", which prohibits certain technologies and allows others, isn't always better for the environment. Take herbicides, for example. These can leach into waterways and poison both wildlife and people. Just last month, researchers led by Tyrone Hayes at the University of California at Berkeley found that even low concentrations of atrazine, the most commonly used weedkiller in the US, can prevent frog tadpoles from developing properly.

Questions 1-4
Use the information in the passage to match the people (listed A-D) with opinions or deeds below. Write the appropriate letters A-D in boxes 1-4 on your answer sheet.

          List of Researchers
A Vaclav Smil
B Bill Liebhardt
C Kenneth Cassman
D Ron Olson

1 Use of chemical fertilizer can be optimised by combining weather information.
2 Organic framing yield is nearly equal to traditional ones.
3 Better agricultural setting is a significant key to solve environmental tough nut.
4 Substantial production loss would happen in case all farmers shifted from using synthetic fertiliser.

Questions 5 - 9
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 1
In boxes 5-9 on your answer sheet, write

YES                        if the statement agrees with the information
NO                      if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN             if there is no information on this

5 Increasing population, draining irrigation, eroding farmland push agricultural industry to extremity.
6 There are only two options for farmers; they use chemical fertiliser or natural approach.
7 Chemical fertilizer currently are more expensive than the natural fertilisers.
8 In order to keep nutrient in the soil, organic farmers need to rotate planting method.
9 "organic agriculture" is the way that environment-damaging technologies are all strictly forbidden

Questions 10-13
Complete the following summary of the paragraphs of Reading Passage, using NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the Reading Passage for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 10-13 on your answer sheet

Several 10 ........................ approaches need to be applied in order that global population wouldn't go starved. A team called 11........................ repeated the viewpoint of a scholar by a survey in British farming. More and more European farmers believe in 12........................farming these years. The argument of organic against 13........................seems in an inaccurate direction.


You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 14-26, which are based on Reading Passage 2 below.

The Pearl

Throughout history, pearls have held a unique presence within the wealthy and powerful. For instance, the pearl was the favored gem of the wealthy during the Roman Empire. This gift from the sea had been brought back from the orient by the Roman conquests. Roman women wore pearls to bed so they could be reminded of their wealth immediately upon waking up. Before jewelers learned to cut gems, the pearl was of greater value than the diamond. In the Orient and Persia Empire, pearls were ground into powders to cure anything from heart disease to epilepsy, with possible aphrodisiac uses as well. Pearls were once considered an exclusive privilege for royalty. A law in 1612 drawn up by the Duke of Saxony prohibited the wearing of pearls by nobility, professors, doctors or their wives in an effort to further distinguish royal appearance. American Indians also used freshwater pearls from the Mississippi River as decorations and jewelry.

There are essentially three types of pearls: natural, cultured and imitation. A natural pearl (often called an Oriental pearl) forms when an irritant, such as a piece of sand, works its way into a particular species of oyster, mussel, or clam. As a defense mechanism, the mollusk secretes a fluid to coat the irritant. Layer upon layer of this coating is deposited on the irritant until a lustrous pearl is formed.

The only difference natural pearls and cultured pearls is that the irritant is a surgically implanted bead or piece of shell called Mother of Pearl. Often, these shells are ground oyster shells that are worth significant amounts of money in their own right as irritant catalysts for quality pearls. The resulting core is, therefore, much larger than in a natural pearl. Yet, as long as there are enough layers of nacre (the secreted fluid covering the irritant) to result in a beautiful, gem-quality pearl, the size of the nucleus is of no consequence to beauty or durability.

Pearls can come from either salt or freshwater sources. Typically, saltwater pearls tend to be higher quality, although there are several types of freshwater pearls that are considered high in quality as well. Freshwater pearls tend to be very irregular in shape, with a puffed rice appearance the most prevalent. Nevertheless, it is each individual pearls merits that determines value more than the source of the pearl. Saltwater pearl oysters a. re usually cultivated in protected lagoons or volcanic atolls. However, most freshwater cultured pearls sold today come from China. Cultured pearls are the response of the shell to a tissue implant. A tiny piece of mantle tissue from a donor shell is transplanted into a recipient shell. This graft will form a pearl sac and the tissue will precipitate calcium carbonate into this pocket. There are a number of options for producing cultured pearls: use freshwater or seawater shells, transplant the graft into the mantle or into the gonad, add a spherical bead or do it non-beaded. The majority of saltwater cultured pearls are grown with beads.

Regardless of the method used to acquire a pearl, the process usually takes several years. Mussels must reach a mature age, which can take up to 3 years, and then be implanted or naturally receive an irritant. Once the irritant is in place, it can take up to another 3 years for the pearl to reach its full size. Often, the irritant may be rejected, the pearl will be terrifically misshapen, or the oyster may simply die from disease or countless other complications. By the end of a 5 to 10 year cycle, only 50% of the oysters will have survived. And of the pearls produced, only approximately 5% are of substantial quality for top jewelry makers. From the outset, a pearl farmer can figure on spending over $100 for every oyster that is farmed, of which many will produce nothing or die.

Imitation pearls are a different story altogether. In most cases, a glass bead is dipped into a solution made from fish scales. This coating is thin and may eventually wear off. One can usually tell an imitation by biting on it. Fake pearls glide across your teeth, while the layers of nacre on real pearls feel gritty. The Island of Mallorca (in Spain) is known for its imitation pearl industry. Quality natural pearls are very rare jewels. The actual value of a natural pearl is determined in the same way as it would be for other "precious" gems. The valuation factors include size, shape, and color, quality of surface, orient and luster. In general, cultured pearls are less valuable than natural pearls, whereas imitation pearls almost have no value. One way that jewelers can determine whether a pearl is cultured or natural is to have a gem lab perform an x-ray of the pearl. If the x-ray reveals a nucleus, the pearl is likely a bead-nucleated saltwater pearl. If no nucleus is present, but irregular and small dark inner spots indicating a cavity are visible, combined with concentric rings of organic substance, the pearl is likely a cultured freshwater. Cultured freshwater pearls can often be confused for natural pearls which present as homogeneous pictures which continuously darken toward the surface of the pearl. Natural pearls will often show larger cavities where organic matter has dried out and decomposed. Although imitation pearls look the part, they do not have the same weight or smoothness as real pearls, and their luster will also dim greatly. Among cultured pearls, Akoya pearls from Japan are some of the most lustrous. A good quality necklace of 40 Akoya pearls measuring 7mm in diameter sells for about $1,500, while a super- high quality strand sells for about $4,500. Size on the other hand, has to do with the age of the oyster that created the pearl (the more mature oysters produce larger pearls) and the location in which the pearl was cultured. The South Sea waters of Australia tend to produce the larger pearls; probably because the water along the coast line is supplied with rich nutrients from the ocean floor. Also, the type of mussel common to the area seems to possess a predilection for producing comparatively large pearls.

Historically, the world's best pearls came from the Persian Gulf, especially around what is now Bahrain. The pearls of the Persian Gulf were natural created and collected by breath-hold divers. The secret to the special luster of Gulf pearls probably derived from the unique mixture of sweet and salt water around the island. Unfortunately, the natural pearl industry of the Persian Gulf ended abruptly in the early 1930's with the discovery of large deposits of oil. Those who once dove for pearls sought prosperity in the economic boom ushered in by the oil industry. The water pollution resulting from spilled oil and indiscriminate over-fishing of oysters essentially ruined the once pristine pearl producing waters of the Gulf. Today, pearl diving is practiced only as a hobby. Still, Bahrain remains one of the foremost trading centers for high quality pearls. In fact, cultured pearls are banned from the Bahrain pearl market, in an effort to preserve the location's heritage. Nowadays, the largest stock of natural pearls probably resides in India. Ironically, much of India’s stock of natural pearls came originally from Bahrain. Unlike Bahrain, which has essentially lost its pearl resource, traditional pearl fishing is still practiced on a small scale in India.

Questions 14-17
Reading Passage 1 has seven paragraphs, A-G. Which paragraph contains the following information?
Write the correct letter A-G in boxes 1-4 on your answer sheet.

14 ancient stories around the pearl and customers.
15 Difficulties in cultivating process.
16 Factors can decide the value of natural pearls.
17 Different growth mechanisms that distinguish the cultured pearls from natural ones.

Questions 18 - 23
Complete the summary below
Choose letter from A-K for each answer. Write them in boxes 18-23 on your answer sheet.

In ancient history, pearls have great importance within the rich and rulers, which was treated as gem for women in 18.................... And pearls were even used as medicine and sex drug for people in 19.................... There are essentially three types of pearls: natural, cultured and imitation. Most freshwater cultured pearls sold today come from China while the 20.................... is famous for its imitation pearl industry. The country 21........................ usually manufactures some of the glitteriest cultured ones while the nation such as 22.................... produces the larger sized pearl due to the favorable environment along the coast line. In the past, one country of 23 .................... in Gulf produced the world's best pearls. Nowadays, the maJor remaining suppliers of the natural pearls belongs to India.

            A America              B Ancient Rome             C Australia             D Bahrain              E China             F Japan              G India
            H Korea              I Mexico             J Persia              K Spain

Questions 24 - 27
Do the following statements agree with the information given in the Reading Passage 1?
In boxes 24-27 on your answer sheet, write

TRUE                        if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE                      if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN             if there is no information on this

24 Often cultured pearl’s centre is significantly larger than in a natural pearl.
25 Cultivated cultured pearls are generally valued the same much as natural ones.
26 The size of pearls produced in Japan is usually of smaller size than those came from Australia.
27 Akoya pearls from Japan Glows more deeply than the South Sea pearls of Australia.


You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 28-40, which are based on Reading Passage 3 below.

Scent of Success

Can you do them at the same time

Innovation and entrepreneurship, in the right mix, can bring spectacular results and propel a business ahead of the pack. Across a diverse range of commercial successes, from the Hills Hoist clothes line to the Cochlear ear implant, it is hard to generalize beyond saying the creators tapped into something consumers could not wait to get their hands on. However, most ideas never make it to the market. Some ideas that innovators are spruiking to potential investors include new water-saving shower heads, a keyless locking system, ping-pong balls that keep pollution out of rainwater tanks, making teeth grow from stem cells inserted in the gum, and technology to stop LPG tanks from exploding. Grant Kearney, chief executive of the Innovation Xchange, which connects businesses to innovation networks, says he hears of great business ideas that he knows will never get on the market. "Ideas by themselves are absolutely useless," he says. "An idea only becomes innovation when it is connected to the right resources and capabilities."

One of Australia's latest innovation successes stems from a lemon-scented bath-room cleaner called Shower Power, the formula for which was concocted in a factory in Yatala, Queensland. In 1995, Tom Quinn and John Heron bought a struggling cleaning products business, OzKleen, for 250,000. It was selling 100 different kinds of cleaning products, mainly in bulk. The business was in bad shape, the cleaning formulas were ineffective and environmentally harsh, and there were few regular clients. Now Shower Power is claimed to be the top-selling bathroom cleaning product in the country. In the past 12 months, almost four million bottles of OzKleen's Power products have been sold and the company forecasts 2004 sales of 10 million bottles. The company's, sales in2003 reached $11 million, with 700k of business being exports. In particular, Shower Power is making big inroads on the British market.

OzKleen’s turnaround began when Quinn and Heron hired an industrial chemist to revitalize the product line. Market research showed that people were looking for a better cleaner for the bathroom, universally regarded as the hardest room in the home to clean. The company also wanted to make the product formulas more environmentally friendly One of Tom Quinn's sons, Peter, aged 24 at the time, began working with the chemist on the formulas, looking at the potential for citrus-based cleaning products. He detested all the chlorine-based cleaning products that dominated the market. "We didn't want to use chlorine, simple as that," he says. "It offers bad working conditions and there's no money in it." Peter looked at citrus ingredients, such as orange peel, to replace the petroleum by-products in cleaners. He is credited with finding the Shower Power formula. "The head," he says. The company is the recipe is in a vault somewhere and in my sole owner of the intellectual property.

To begin with, Shower Power was sold only in commercial quantities but Tom Quinn decided to sell it in 750ml bottles after the constant "raves" from customers at their retail store at Beenleigh, near Brisbane. Customers were travel- ling long distances to buy supplies. Others began writing to OzKleen to say how good Shower Power was. "We did a dummy label and went to see Woolworths," Tom Quinn says. The Woolworths buyer took a bottle home and was able to remove a stain from her basin that had been impossible to shift. From that point on, she championed the product and OzKleen had its first supermarket order, for a palette of Shower Power worth $3000. "We were over the moon," says OzKleen's financial controller, Belinda McDonnell.

Shower Power was released in Australian supermarkets in 1997 and became the topselling product in its category within six months. It was all hands on deck at the factory, labeling and bottling Shower Power to keep up with demand. OzKleen ditched all other products and rebuilt the business around Shower Power. This stage, recalls McDonnell, was very tough. "It was hand-to-mouth, cash flow was very difficult," she says. OzKleen had to pay new-line fees to supermarket chains, which also squeezed margins.

OzKleen's next big break came when the daughter of a Coles Myer executive 1 used the product while on holidays in Queensland and convinced her father that Shower Power should be in Coles supermarkets. Despite the product success, Peter Quinn says the company was wary of how long the sales would last and hesitate to spend money on upgrading the manufacturing process. As a result, he remembers long periods of working around the clock to keep up with orders. Small tanks were still being used so batches were small and bottles were labeled and filled manually. The privately owned OzKleen relied on cash-flow to expand. "The equipment could not keep up with demand," Peter Quinn says. Eventually a new bottling machine was bought for $50,000 in the hope of streamlining production, but he says: "We got ripped off." Since then he has been developing a new automated bottling machine that can control the amount of foam produced in the liquid, so that bottles can be filled more effectively - "I love coming up with new ideas." The machine is being patented.

Peter Quinn says OzKleen's approach to research and development is open slather. "If I need it, I get it. It is about doing something simple that no one else is doing. Most of these things are just sitting in front of people ... it's just seeing the opportunities." With a tried and tested product, OzKleen is expanding overseas and developing more Power-brand household products. Tom Quinn, who previously ran a real estate agency, says: "We are competing with the same market all over the world; the (cleaning) products are sold everywhere." Shower Power, known as Bath Power in Britain, was launched four years ago with the help of an export development grand from the Federal Government. "We wanted to do it straight away because we realized we had the same opportunities worldwide." OzKleen is already number three in the British market, and the next stop is France. The Power range includes cleaning products for carpets, kitchens and pre-wash stain removal. The Quinn and Heron families are still involved. OzKleen has been approached with offers to buy the company, but Tom Quinn says he is happy with things as they are. "We're having too much fun.”

Questions 28-34
Reading Passage 3 has six paragraphs, A—G.
Which paragraph contains the following information?
Write the correct letter A-G, in boxes 28-34 on your answer sheet.
NB You may use any letter more than once.

28 Description of one family member persuading another of selling cleaning products
29 An account of the cooperation of all factory staff to cope with sales increase
30 An account of the creation of the formula of Shower Power
31 An account of buying the original OzKleen company
32 Description of Shower Power's international expansion
33 The reason of changing the packaging size of Shower Power
34 An example of some innovative ideas

Questions 35-38
Look at the following people and list of statements below.
Match each person with the correct statement
Write the correct letter A-E in boxes 35-38 on your answer sheet.

35 Grant Keamey
36 Tom Quinn
37 PeterQuinn
38 BelindaMcDonnell

List of Statement
A Described his story of selling his product to a chain store
B Explained there was a shortage of money when sales suddenly increased
C Believe innovations need support to succeed
D Believes new products like Shower Power may incur risks
E Says business won’t succeed with innovations

Questions 36-40
Choose the correct letter A, B, C or D. Write your answers in boxes 36-40 on your answer sheet.
39 Tom Quinn changed the bottle size to 750ml to make Shower Power
A Easier to package.
B Appealing to individual customers.
C Popular in foreign markets.
D Attractive to supermarkets.

40 Why did Tom Quinn decide not to sell OzKleen?
A No one wanted to buy OzKleen.
B New products were being developed in OzKleen.
C He couldn't make an agreement on the price with the buyer.
D He wanted to keep things unchanged.

1 D
2 B
3 C
4 A
6 NO
9 NO
10 Farming
11 Curry
12 Natural/ organic
13 Chemical
14 A
15 E
16 F
17 C
18 B
19 J
20 K
21 F
22 C
23 D
28 F
29 E
30 C
31 B
G 33 D
34 A
35 C
36 A
37 D
38 B
39 B
40 D

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