The original R-GRASS interface (Bivand 2000; Neteler and Mitasova 2008) was written mainly to permit R objects represented as sp class objects to be moved to GRASS, and GRASS objects to be moved to R for statistical analysis. From spgrass6 0.6-3 (April 2009) following a fruitful workshop at Queen’s University, Belfast, the interface was re-written to use the --interface-description flag provided for each GRASS command, also used by the Python interface to GRASS commands. Command interface descriptions are parsed from XML and cached as R objects for efficiency. The current version of the R-GRASS interface is contained in this package, rgrass. In addition, an R function initGRASS() was written to permit GRASS to be started from within GRASS to which we will return below.

Starting R inside GRASS

When starting GRASS GIS from a terminal console (here GRASS 8.3.2), one can continue in the GRASS terminal console, starting an interactive R session from there (here R 4.3.3). Loading and attaching the R-GRASS interface package rgrass in the R session, we see that the current GRASS location is detected and reported:

$ grass
Starting GRASS GIS...

          __________  ___   __________    _______________
         / ____/ __ \/   | / ___/ ___/   / ____/  _/ ___/
        / / __/ /_/ / /| | \__ \\_  \   / / __ / / \__ \
       / /_/ / _, _/ ___ |___/ /__/ /  / /_/ // / ___/ /
       \____/_/ |_/_/  |_/____/____/   \____/___//____/

Welcome to GRASS GIS 8.3.2
GRASS GIS homepage:            
This version running through:            Bash Shell (/bin/bash)
Help is available with the command:      g.manual -i
See the licence terms with:              g.version -c
See citation options with:               g.version -x
If required, restart the GUI with:       g.gui wxpython
When ready to quit enter:                exit

Launching <wxpython> GUI in the background, please wait...
GRASS nc_basic_spm_grass7/rsb:~ > R

R version 4.3.3 (2024-02-29) -- "Angel Food Cake"
Copyright (C) 2024 The R Foundation for Statistical Computing
Platform: x86_64-pc-linux-gnu (64-bit)


> library(rgrass)
GRASS GIS interface loaded with GRASS version: GRASS 8.3.2 (2024)
and location: nc_basic_spm_grass7

Since rgrass knows the current location, we can for example use execGRASS() to list GRASS rasters in the PERMANENT mapset in the standard North Carolina basic data set (

> execGRASS("g.list", type="raster", mapset="PERMANENT")
> q()
Save workspace image? [y/n/c]: n
GRASS nc_basic_spm_grass7/rsb:github-rsb > exit

Goodbye from GRASS GIS

Leaving R returns us to the GRASS terminal console, which we can also exit.

R can also be started within the GRASS GUI, by choosing the console tab, and entering for example rstudio, or another R graphical user interface. This screendump shows the same listing of rasters in PERMANENT in rstudio: