Creating a custom soil attribute plot using ggmap

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Cusby Ryan Garner
Senior Data Scientist, Revolution Analytics

I love creating spatial data visualizations in R. With the ggmap package, I can easily download satellite imagery which serves as a base layer for the data I want to represent. In the code below, I show you how to visualize sampled soil attributes among 16 different rice fields in Uruguay.

temp <- tempfile()
download.file("", temp)
connection <- unz(temp, "Data/Set3/Set3data.csv")
rice <- read.csv(connection)
names(rice) <- tolower(names(rice))
# Create a custom soil attribute plot
# @param df Data frame containing data for a field
# @param attribute Soil attribute
# @return Custom soil attribute plot
create_plot <- function(df, attribute) {
  map <- get_map(location = c(median(df$longitude), 
                 maptype = "satellite",
                 source = "google",
                 crop = FALSE,
                 zoom = 15)
  plot <- ggmap(map) + geom_point(aes_string(x = "longitude", 
                                             y = "latitude",
                                             color = attribute),
                                  size = 5,
                                  data = df)
  plot <- plot + ggtitle(paste("Farmer", df$farmer, "/ Field", df$field))
  plot <- plot + scale_color_gradient(low = "darkorange", high = "darkorchid4")
ph_plot <- dlply(rice, "field", create_plot, attribute = "ph")
ph_plots <-, ph_plot)

First, I download data that is used in "Spatial Data Analysis in Ecology and Agriculture using R" by Dr. Richard Plant. (This is an excellent book to get your feet wet working with spatial data in R.) After the data has been downloaded, I create a function that builds a custom soil attribute plot for each unique field found in the rice yield data. Then, I customized the output to include larger spatial points and a custom gradient that goes from dark orange to dark purple for clarity.

Finally, once all the plots are generated, I arrange them into a single plot.


The plot shows the ph intensity of the soil in 16 fields belonging to 9 different farmers. The last plot, field 16 of farmer L, appears to have higher ph concentrations than the rest.

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