I understand that soil color is affected by several factors some of which are (but not limited to):

  • organic matter content
  • underlying parent material
  • drainage and aeration

Soil color being an indirect measure of other important characteristics (Foth, 1990), I have been thinking about building an application that reads a soil color in terms of it's hue, value, and chroma as the munsell color system using openCV color detection techniques.

After reading this data, the application should be able to interpret it to give meaningful information about the soil. This can be organic matter content, dominant minerals, drainage etc.

My questions now

  • What information be accurately be obtained from soil color?
  • Is this application by any means feasible?
  • Do technologies exist that achieve the same? (using computer vision)

Reference Foth D. (1990). Fundamentals of soil science J Willey.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Maybe if you had spectral filters, and even then I doubt it $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Jan 26, 2016 at 11:05
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I don't know what information can be obtained from soil color but here is an example of this technique being used on marine sediments doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2007.03.004 you can find the paper on Researchgate $\endgroup$
    – wienein
    Feb 2, 2016 at 20:14

2 Answers 2


Unfortunately, the color itself won't give you much more information than the amount of organic matter and oxides/hydroxides. The amount of carbonate and some silicates might also be detected, but those values would be very vague without further examination of the soil.

If you want to get more information you would need some more data. The grain sizes for example (sand, clay, silt), pH-measurements, the amount of water and air, what other minerals and the salinity. You also need information about the soil biota, and so on. To collect all these data you need further research methods. So your project idea is nice, but a picture alone won't bring you much information since the soil's properties are too complex.

Also writing such a program (I guess a mobile app?) will be hard since all cameras take different pictures under different lighting.. furthermore they all have a different processing of the pictures. I'm not sure how computer vision could help since you'd need a special camera. So if you want to make an app you're going to have a hard time. I don't think you want to design a special device just for this.

Another aspect is that whenever you work with soil, you're going to get dirty. That's no good environment for such technology, that's why the munsell charts are used. It's no problem when they get dirty.

I really like the idea, but I don't think it'll get you far, but that's just my opinion!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I got a 15-cm ruler/engineer's scale with CMYK color test pattern and a chart for estimating percentage composition. Something like this might help to get more accurate information from a picture in one such application. Still, as said in the answer, more data would be necessary to get more precise information on soil properties. $\endgroup$
    – carnendil
    Feb 2, 2016 at 23:49

This is to a certain degree possible. See this article: https://dl.sciencesocieties.org/publications/sssaj/abstracts/77/6/2173


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.