Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2022Peer reviewed

Assessment of the soil fertility status in Benin (West Africa) – Digital soil mapping using machine learning

Hounkpatin, Kpade O. L.; Bossa, Aymar Y.; Yira, Yacouba; Igue, Mouinou A.; Sinsin, Brice A.


A soil fertility index map (SFIm) can provide key information to decision-makers in regard to spatial planning in the context of sustainable land management. The establishment of such SFIm requires basic soil properties that can be modelled for spatial mapping. The objective of this study was to take advantage of Benin soil legacy data to produce a digital SFIm at a national level based on 8 soil properties (soil organic matter, nitrogen, pH (water), exchangeable potassium, assimilable phosphorus, sum of bases, cation exchange capacity and base saturation). Specific research aims were (1) to model and develop digital soil maps, (2) to identify the key covariates influencing soil nutrients, and (3) to build an SFIm using digital maps of the soil properties. For each soil property, modelling procedures involved the use of different covariates, including soil type, topographic, bioclimatic and spectral data, along with the comparative assessment of the cubist (CB) and quantile random forest (QRF) models. Models were evaluated not only on the basis of classical error metrics (RMSE, R2) but also on the ability to predict local uncertainty based on the prediction interval coverage probability (PICP). The results revealed that CB performed marginally better than the QRF based on classical error metrics (R2, RMSE) but produced the worst uncertainty with an overestimation of the local uncertainty. This suggested that the use of accuracy plots such as PICP to evaluate models can identify accuracy problems not evident with classical error metrics. The analysis revealed that the distance to the nearest stream, which was part of topographic covariates, had strong predictive ability for all the soil properties along with the bioclimatic variables. The spatial distribution of the different classes of SFIm showed a preponderance of low fertility levels with severe limitations for crop development. A limited number of high and average fertility level soils were found in the low elevation areas of southern Benin, and policy could advocate for their sole use for agricultural purposes and promote sustainable management practices.


Soil fertility index; Digital soil mapping; Random forest; Multiple soil classes

Published in

Geoderma Regional
2022, Volume: 28, article number: e00444

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG2 Zero hunger
    SDG12 Responsible consumption and production
    SDG15 Life on land

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Soil Science

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)