Predicting soil properties from the Australian soil visible-near infrared spectroscopic database

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Viscara Rossel, R. A. and Webster, R. 2012. Predicting soil properties from the Australian soil visible-near infrared spectroscopic database. European Journal of Soil Science. 63 (6), pp. 848-860.

AuthorsViscara Rossel, R. A. and Webster, R.

There are reflectance spectra in the visible and near infrared wavelengths from some 20 000 archived samples of soil in Australia. Their particular forms depend on absorbances at specific wavelengths characteristic of components in the soil such as water, iron oxides, clay minerals and carbon compounds, and so one might expect to be able to predict soil properties from the spectra. We tested a tree-based technique for the prediction of 24 soil properties. A tree is first constructed by the definition of rules that separate the data into fairly homogeneous groups for any given property on both the absorptions at specified wavelengths and other, categoric, variables. Then within each group the property is predicted from the absorptions at those wavelengths by ordinary least-squares regression. The spectroscopic predictions of the soil properties were compared with actual values in a subset of sample data separated from the whole data for validation. The criteria of success that we used were the root mean squared error (RMSE) to measure the inaccuracy of our predictions, the mean error (ME) to measure their bias and the standard deviation of the error (SDE) to measure their imprecision. We also used the ratio of performance to deviation (RPD), which is the ratio of the standard deviation of the observed values to the RMSE of the predictions; the larger it is the better does the technique perform. We found good predictions (RPD>2) for clay and total sand content, for total organic carbon and total nitrogen, pH, cation exchange capacity, and exchangeable calcium, magnesium and sodium. Several other properties were moderately well predicted (1.5 <= RPD < 2); they included air-dry water content, volumetric water content at field capacity and wilting point, bulk density, the contents of silt, fine sand and coarse sand, total and exchangeable potassium, total phosphorus and extractable iron. Properties that were poorly predicted (RPD < 1.5) include the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, available phosphorus and exchangeable acidity. We conclude that even though the predictions are less accurate than direct measurements, the spectra are cheap yet valuable sources of information for predicting values of individual soil properties when large numbers of analyses are needed, for example, for soil mapping.

KeywordsSoil Science
Year of Publication2012
JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Science
Journal citation63 (6), pp. 848-860
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as non-open access
Funder project or codeCentre for Mathematical and Computational Biology (MCB)
Complex spatial variation of environmental variables: sampling, prediction and interpretation

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