Wise soil management requires detailed soil information, but conventional soil class mapping in a rather coarse spatial resolution cannot meet the demand for precision agriculture. With the advantages of non-destructiveness, rapid cost-efficiency, and labor savings, the spectroscopic technique has proved its high potential for success in soil classification. Previous studies mainly focused on predicting soil classes using a single sensor. In this study, we attempted to compare the predictive ability of visible near infrared (vis-NIR) spectra, mid-infrared (MIR) spectra, and their fused spectra for soil classification. A total of 146 soil profiles were collected from Zhejiang, China, and the soil properties and spectra were measured by their genetic horizons. Along with easy-to-measure auxiliary soil information (soil organic matter, soil texture, color and pH), four spectral data, including vis-NIR, MIR, their simple combination (vis-NIR-MIR), and outer product analysis (OPA) fused spectra, were used for soil classification using a multiple objectives mixed support vector machine model. The independent validation results showed that the classification model using MIR (accuracy of 64.5%) was slightly better than that using vis-NIR (accuracy of 64.2%). The predictive model built on vis-NIR-MIR did not improve the classification accuracy, having the lowest accuracy of 61.1%, which likely resulted from an over-fitting problem. The model based on OPA fused spectra performed best with an accuracy of 68.4%. Our results prove the potential of fusing vis-NIR and MIR using OPA for improving prediction ability for soil classification.
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