Visible and near-infrared (Vis-NIR) diffuse reflectance spectroscopy with partial least squares (PLS) regression is a quick, cost-effective, and promising technology for predicting soil properties. The advantage of PLS regression is that all available wavebands can be incorporated in the model, while earlier studies indicate that PLS models include redundant wavelengths, and selecting specific wavebands can refine PLS analyses. This study evaluated the performance of PLS regression with waveband selection using Vis-NIR reflectance spectra to estimate the total carbon (TC) and total nitrogen (TN) in soils collected mainly from the surface of upland and lowland rice fields in Madagascar (n
= 59; after outliers were removed). We used iterative stepwise elimination-based PLS (ISE-PLS) to estimate soil TC and TN and compared the predictive ability with standard full-spectrum PLS (FS-PLS). The predictive abilities were assessed using the coefficient of determination (R2
), the root mean squared error of cross-validation (RMSECV), and the residual predictive deviation (RPD). Overall, ISE-PLS using first derivative reflectance (FDR) showed a better predictive accuracy than ISE-PLS for both TC (R2
= 0.972, RMSECV = 0.194, RPD = 5.995) and TN (R2
= 0.949, RMSECV = 0.019, RPD = 4.416) in the soil of Madagascar. The important wavebands for estimating TC (12.59% of all wavebands) and TN (3.55% of all wavebands) were selected from all 2001 wavebands over the 400–2400 nm range using ISE-PLS. These findings suggest that ISE-PLS based on Vis-NIR diffuse reflectance spectra can be used to estimate soil TC and TN contents in Madagascar with an improved predictive accuracy.
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