Soil characterization by near-infrared spectroscopy and principal component analysis

Maria Ivanilda de Aguiar, Lívia Paulia Dias Ribeiro, Aurea Pinto dos Ramos, Edson Lopes Cardoso


This research aimed to use principal component analysis (PCA) as an exploratory method for spectral data of soil absorbance from the Baturité Massif and Central Hinterland (Ceará State, Brazil) to verify the potential of the technique in soil characterization. We analyzed 46 soil samples from different areas (native and cultivated). Each sample was analyzed in two particle sizes: 2 and 0.2 mm. We obtained spectral data by near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR), selecting the 1,360–2,260 nm range (2,376 variables). We evaluated three data pretreatment methods: multiplicative scatter correction (MSC), first derivative, and second derivative of the Savitzky-Golay filter. The absorption bands observed were: 1,414 nm (C–H stretching and deformation combination), 1,450 nm (O–H associated with the carbon chain), 1,780 nm (second overtone of C–H), 1,928 nm (O–H associated with molecular water), and 2,208 nm (C–H stretch and C=O combination). The best pretreatment was verified using only the multiplicative scatter correction (MSC). Two principal components explained 98% of the data variability, being the first principal component (PC1) related to the characteristic band of moisture, with negative values in the 1,928 nm region, while the second principal component (PC2) was related to the total organic matter (OM) originating from the C–H, C=O, and N–H bonds, wavelength region 1,414 nm. The PCA allowed characterizing the samples in terms of moisture and OM contents, with emphasis on soils under irrigated agroforestry system with higher values of moisture and OM, while the soil in degradation process presented lower values for these attributes. The NIR spectroscopy, associated with data processing methods (PCA and MSC), allows identifying changes in soil attributes, such as moisture and OM.


Non-destructive analysis; Soil spectral response; Particle size

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