Soil-Plant Spectral Diagnostics Laboratory

Our goal is to increase smallholder farm productivity, achieve more sustainable intensification of agriculture, and improve management of natural resources through reliable and cost-effective measurement of soils, plants and agro-inputs.

We set about achieving this goal by advancing methods and developing capacity in reliable, high-throughput, and low-cost soil and plant analysis using only light—photon-based methods, including visible, near-infrared, x-ray and laser technology.

The laboratory serves as the main analytical centre for the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) as well as supporting an increasing number of spectral labs worldwide.


  • Rapid prediction of soil physical, chemical and biological properties
  • Rapid measurement of macro- and micro-nutrients and heavy metals in plant materials
  • Digital mapping of soil properties and crop nutritional constraints
  • Quality screening of fertilizers, feeds, organic manures, and crop produce
  • Soil carbon monitoring
  • Soil mineralogical determination
  • Rural Soil-Plant Diagnostic Labs
  • Development of handheld spectrometers
  • Spectral lab certification and calibration services

Example use cases

  • Baseline on soil health for sub-Saharan Africa (AfSIS).
  • Measurement and mapping of soil health constraints in sustainable land management projects (e.g. UNEP West Africa Drylands Project; UNDP Baringo, Kenya Northern Rangelands Trust)
  • Soil health survey in cash crop plantations (e.g. Mars Vision for Change in Cote D’Ivoire).
  • Soil health in long-term agricultural monitoring initiatives (e.g. Vital Signs in Africa, World Bank Living Standards Measurement Study in Ethiopia and Uganda; CGIAR Learning Landscapes)
  • Evidence-based agronomy for targeting fertilizer supply and blending strategies (e.g. One Acre Fund in Kenya, OCP in Nigeria).
  • Studies of soil fertility variability on smallholder farms (e.g. with KARLO, Kenya).
  • Soil assessment for mine reclamation (e.g. with Yunnan Phosphate Chemical Group, China)

Capacity development

  • Training and advisory services for a network of spectral labs (17 labs in 10 African countries, China, India, Peru, UK, USA).
  • Support to national soil information systems (Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania).
  • Hands-on training courses on soil-plant spectral diagnostics (e.g. System for Land‐based Emissions Estimation in Kenya – SLEEK; ChromAfrica LLC).
  • Visiting scientists and technicians programme