The investigation of iron oxides in soil using spectral reflectance is very common. Their spectral signal is significant across the visible–near infrared (VIS–NIR) spectral range (400–1000 nm). However, this range overlaps with other soil chromophores, such as those for water and soil organic matter (SOM). This study aimed to investigate the effect of different SOM species on red soil from Israel, which is rich in hematite iron oxide, under air-dried conditions. We constructed datasets of artificially mixed soil and organic matter (OM) with different percentages of added compost from two sources (referred to as A2 and A5). Eighty subsamples of mixed soil–OM were prepared for each of the OM (compost) types. To investigate the effect of OM on the strong iron-oxide absorbance at 880 nm, we generated two indices: CRDC, the absorbance spectral depth change at 880 nm after continuous removal, and NRIR, the normalized red index ratio using 880 and 780 nm wavelengths. The different OM types influenced the soil reflectance differently. At low %SOM, up to 1.5%, the OM types behaved more similarly, but as the OM content increased, their effect on the iron-oxide signal was greater, enhancing the significant differences between the two OM sources. Moreover, as the SOM content increased, the iron-oxide signal decreased until it was completely masked out from the reflectance spectrum. The masking point was observed at different SOM contents: 4% for A5 and 8% for A2. A mechanism that explains the indirect chromophore activity of SOM in the visible region, which is related to the iron-oxide spectral features, was provided. We also compared the use of synthetic linear-mixing practices (soil–OM) to the authentic mixed samples. The synthetic mixture could not imitate the authentic soil reflectance status, especially across the overlapping spectral position of the iron oxides and OM, and hence may hinder real conditions.
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