Predicting soil properties in the tropics

B. Minasny, A.E. Hartemink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

164 Citations (Scopus)


It is practically impossible to measure soil properties continuously at each location across the globe. Therefore, it is necessary to have robust systems that can predict soil properties at a given location. That is needed in many tropical countries where the dearth of soil property measurements is large. This paper reviews the use of pedotransfer functions (PTF) for predicting properties of soils in the tropics. First, the guiding principles of prediction and the type of predictors are discussed, including laboratory data, field description and soil morphology, electromagnetic spectrum, proximal and remote sensed data. In the subsequent section, PTFs are discussed for soil physical and chemical properties followed by infrared spectroscopy, proximal sensing and remote sensing. An analysis of ISRIC (mainly tropical) and USDA (mainly temperate) soil databases showed that soils in the tropics have higher clay content, lower cation exchange capacity, higher bulk density, lower water content at - 10 kPa and - 1500 kPa than soils in the temperate regions. Various methods developed in temperate regions can be applied for the soils in the tropical regions although calibration and careful selection of predictors remains necessary. It is concluded that PTFs are an important tool to overcome the dearth of soil data in many tropical countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-62
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • saturated hydraulic conductivity
  • pedotransfer functions
  • water-retention
  • bulk-density
  • reflectance spectroscopy
  • infrared-spectroscopy
  • phosphate sorption
  • brazilian soils
  • organic-matter
  • data set


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