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.

Applications

  • 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