Abstract

Using the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry–International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ICRAF-ISRIC) global soil spectroscopy database, models were developed to estimate a number of soil variables using different input data types. These input types included: (1) site data only; (2) visible–near-infrared (Vis-NIR) diffuse reflectance spectroscopy only; (3) combined site and Vis-NIR data; (4) red–green–blue (RGB) color data only; and (5) combined site and RGB color data. The models produced variable estimation accuracy, with RGB only being generally worst and spectroscopy plus site being best. However, we showed that for certain variables, estimation accuracy levels achieved with the “site plus RGB input data” were sufficiently good to provide useful estimates (r2 > 0.7). These included major elements (Ca, Si, Al, Fe), organic carbon, and cation exchange capacity. Estimates for bulk density, contrast-to-noise (C/N), and P were moderately good, but K was not well estimated using this model type. For the “spectra plus site” model, many more variables were well estimated, including many that are important indicators for agricultural productivity and soil health. Sum of cation, electrical conductivity, Si, Ca, and Al oxides, and C/N ratio were estimated using this approach with r2 values > 0.9. This work provides a mechanism for identifying the cost-effectiveness of using different model input data, with associated costs, for estimating soil variables to required levels of accuracy.

© 2017 The Author(s)

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