Machine learning and soil sciences: A review aided by machine learning tools

José Padarian, Budiman Minasny, Alex B. McBratney
2019 SOIL Discussions  
<p><strong>Abstract.</strong> The application of machine learning (ML) techniques in various fields of science has increased rapidly, especially in the last ten years. The increasing availability of soil data that can be efficiently acquired remotely and proximally, and freely available open-source algorithms, have led to an accelerated adoption of ML techniques to analyse soil data. Given the large number of publications, it is an impossible task to manually review all papers on the
more » ... s on the application of ML in soil science without narrowing down a narrative of ML application in a specific research question. This paper aims to provide a comprehensive review of the application of ML techniques in soil science aided by a ML algorithm (Latent Dirichlet Allocation) to find patterns in a large collection of text corpus. The objective is to gain insight into publications of ML applications in soil science and to discuss the research gaps in this topic. We found that: a) there is an increasing usage of ML methods in soil sciences, mostly concentrated in developed countries, b) the reviewed publication can be grouped into 12 topics, namely remote sensing, soil organic carbon, water, contamination, methods (ensembles), erosion and parent material, methods (NN, SVM), spectroscopy, modelling (classes), crops, physical and modelling (continuous), c) advanced ML methods usually perform better than simpler approaches thanks to their capability to capture non-linear relationships. From these findings, we found research gaps, in particular: about the precautions that should be taken (parsimony) to avoid overfitting, and that the interpretability of the ML models is an important aspect to consider when applying advanced ML methods in order to improve our knowledge and understanding of soil. We foresee that a large number of studies will focus on the latter topic.</p>
doi:10.5194/soil-2019-57 fatcat:kdleuvuaqfgklfhpgumpfkd2ji