Optical assessment of the spatial variation in total soil carbon using laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy

Vishal Dwivedi, Joni Ahokas, Jan Viljanen, Piotr Ryczkowski, Narasinha J. Shurpali, Hem Raj Bhattarai, Perttu Virkajärvi, Juha Toivonen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Downloads (Pure)


Soil carbon storage is a substantial factor in the global carbon cycle. Carbon sequestration in agricultural soils, and the assessment and validation of soil carbon storage, are crucial for the mitigation of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and for steering towards sustainable farming practices. Enforcement and verification of carbon sequestration policies, methods, and models require extensive soil carbon monitoring capability. However, current conventional laboratory-based methods for soil carbon estimation are laborious, expensive, and time-consuming. In this work, we have developed a compact, robust, and field-capable experimental device based on laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) for the rapid assessment of total soil carbon content and its spatial distribution in mineral soils. The carbon content quantification was performed using a spectral line of carbon at a wavelength of 193.1 nm emitted from the laser-induced plasma plume. The LIBS measurements were performed on soil samples collected from 28 different locations and various depths (up to 1 m) of a test field cultivated with a forage legume (red clover - Trifolium pratense, L.) and grass (Timothy - Phleum pratense, L.) mixture in eastern Finland. A calibration model was established based on a limited and randomly chosen sample set and validated by comparing soil carbon estimates obtained from various locations in the test field using the dry combustion (LECO) method. Further, we demonstrate here the usefulness of LIBS methodology for mapping three-dimensional carbon distribution at the test field. We emphasize here that the calibration model can be generalized to other sample areas under similar soil type with a relative error of less than 10 % and possesses potential for fast on-site determination of spatial variation in total soil carbon, reducing substantially the need of time-consuming sample processing in laboratory. Therefore, LIBS enables frequent and extensive spatial and temporal soil carbon mapping and has the potential to become part of the future carbon monitoring network.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116550
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • LIBS
  • Quantification
  • Soil analysis
  • Spatial variation
  • Total soil carbon

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Optical assessment of the spatial variation in total soil carbon using laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this