Soil classification in Romanian catenas via advanced proximal sensors

Autumn Acree, David C. Weindorf, Laura Paulette, Natasja van Gestel, Somsubhra Chakraborty, Titus Man, Cynthia Jordan, José Luis Prieto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Transylvanian Plain (TP), Romania is widely used for agronomic production. The Chernisol soil class covers a vast majority of the TP as defined by the Sistemul Roman De Taxonomie A Solurilor (SRTS). Chernisols are fertile, dark soils similar to Mollisols in the United States. Chernisols have four key soil types, two of them occur in the TP: chernozems and phaeozems. While these two classifications appear similar to those found in the World Reference Base (WRB) for Soil Resources, only the Romanian system (SRTS) is applied in this paper. Chernozems require a chroma of ≤2 in the Am horizon when moist and a calcic horizon or secondary CaCO3 within 125 cm. Phaeozems require chroma of ≤3.5 when wet and a calcic horizon or secondary CaCO3 deeper than 125 cm. Traditionally, morphological assessment in combination with laboratory data has been used to assess the depth of secondary CaCO3, thus establishing the taxonomic classification. Herein, the efficacy of portable X-ray fluorescence (PXRF) and visible near infrared spectroscopy (VisNIR) were evaluated to make such determinations in lieu of laboratory data on 25 soil cores collected across five toposequences. Cores were scanned on-site with both sensors at 10 cm increments to determine depth to CaCO3 accumulation. Comparing Ca percentages from only PXRF with traditional laboratory pressure calcimetry via simple linear regression (SLR), the following model validation data (based on whole core splitting, Coreval) were obtained: R2 = 0.92; root mean squared error (RMSE) = 0.81%; residual prediction deviation (RPD) = 3.27: ratio of performance to interquartile range (RPIQ): 5.34. Thus, most of the Ca in soils of the TP is associated with secondary CaCO3. Using the three most prominent latent variables, VisNIR spectra (smoothed to 10 nm bands) were combined with PXRF data via partial least squares regression (PLSR) to determine if any improvements could be achieved by the combined approach. Combined Coreval models produced the following: R2 = 0.89; RMSE = 0.98%; RPD = 2.73; RPIQ = 4.46. Boosted regression tree Coreval modeling produced similar results (R2 = 0.90; RMSE = 0.89%; RPD = 2.99; RPIQ = 4.87). With deference to the law of parsimony, use of PXRF data without VisNIR for calcic horizon identification and quantification in conjunction with morphological assessment and interpretation appears preferable for most Pedological applications given its robust, strong performance. Minimal differences were observed using two different sample splitting schemes (whole core vs. full sample set) relative to PXRF data predictive models for CaCO3 prediction, especially for PXRF with no VisNIR contribution. Of the sites investigated, PXRF identified six phaeozems (P) and nineteen chernozems (C). Specifically, the following were identified on different slope profiles: summits (1P/4C), shoulders (1P/2C), backslopes (3P/7C), footslopes (0P/4C), and toeslopes (1P/2C). Localized landslides and erosion precluded the identification of a common landscape model differentiating P/C on landscapes. Nonetheless, proximal sensors were adept at informing soil properties needed for taxonomic classification on-site, with minimal need for traditional pressure calcimetry.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114587
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • Chernisols
  • Mollisols
  • Proximal sensors
  • Romania
  • Transylvanian Plain


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