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.
Ross S. Bricklemyer, David J. Brown, Philip J. Turk, and Sam M. Clegg, "Improved Intact Soil-Core Carbon Determination Applying Regression Shrinkage and Variable Selection Techniques to Complete Spectrum Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS)," Appl. Spectrosc. 67, 1185-1199 (2013)