This is a note to self

Every time I go to use the FAO data on agricultural suitability, I forget how to access it and then how to work with it. Follow these notes.

Getting the data from FAO

  • The data portal is located at You have to log in, but your google or facebook accounts will work.
  • Within the “Suitability and Potential Yield” category, choose “Agro-climatic yield”. Then, use the input level, crop, and water supply levels (on the bottom left of the screen) to choose the right historical period.
    • For time, I usually pick “Baseline (1961-1990)” which is as good as we’re going to get for historical climate data.
    • Input level depends on the historical period. For the Domesday paper on 13th century England, I use low inputs and rain-fed water supply.
    • Theme options are: “Agro-climatically attainable yield”, “Crop/LUT selection by grid-cell”, “Crop-specific actual evapotranspiration (mm)”, and “Crop specific accumulated temperature”. The first seems the right choice for suitability.
    • Then pick the crop (or crops)
  • Once selected, double click the small map and save it by clicking the zip file icon. This will download a file with:
    • a tif file, a pdf of the map, an xml, two pngs, and a csv with the region aggregates

Loading the data in R

This post has a lot of nice tips:

Domesday project

  • I collect suitability data using:
    • low inputs
    • rain-fed water
    • baseline time
    • agro-climatically attainable yields
  • For the following crops
    • barley, oats, legumes, wheat, and rye
    • what are legumes?