Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) provides a potential method for rapid, in situ soil C measurement. In previous research on the application of LIBS to intact soil cores, we hypothesized that ultraviolet (UV) spectrum LIBS (200-300 nm) might not provide sufficient elemental information to reliably discriminate between soil organic C (SOC) and inorganic C (IC). In this study, using a custom complete spectrum (245-925 nm) core-scanning LIBS instrument, we analyzed 60 intact soil cores from six wheat fields. Predictive multi-response partial least squares (PLS2) models using full and reduced spectrum LIBS were compared for directly determining soil total C (TC), IC, and SOC. Two regression shrinkage and variable selection approaches, the least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO) and sparse multivariate regression with covariance estimation (MRCE), were tested for soil C predictions and the identification of wavelengths important for soil C prediction. Using complete spectrum LIBS for PLS2 modeling reduced the calibration standard error of prediction (SEP) 15 and 19% for TC and IC, respectively, compared to UV spectrum LIBS. The LASSO and MRCE approaches provided significantly improved calibration accuracy and reduced SEP 32-55% over UV spectrum PLS2 models. We conclude that (1) complete spectrum LIBS is superior to UV spectrum LIBS for predicting soil C for intact soil cores without pretreatment; (2) LASSO and MRCE approaches provide improved calibration prediction accuracy over PLS2 but require additional testing with increased soil and target analyte diversity; and (3) measurement errors associated with analyzing intact cores (e.g., sample density and surface roughness) require further study and quantification.

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