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Calcium Ammonium Nitrate vs. Ammonium Nitrate — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on November 15, 2023
Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) is a fertilizer with calcium and ammonium nitrate, while Ammonium Nitrate (AN) is a nitrogenous fertilizer without calcium.
Calcium Ammonium Nitrate vs. Ammonium Nitrate — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Calcium Ammonium Nitrate and Ammonium Nitrate


Key Differences

Calcium Ammonium Nitrate, often abbreviated as CAN, is a fertilizer that is widely used to provide nitrogen to plants. It contains both calcium and ammonium ions in its structure, thereby supplementing soil with these vital nutrients. CAN is often favored for its dual-nutrient provision, which can aid in bolstering plant cell structure and overall growth. Ammonium Nitrate, denoted as AN, is another fertilizer, but it lacks the calcium component present in CAN. It is highly soluble and thus is quickly available to plants, but it doesn’t contribute to the calcium levels in the soil.
Though CAN provides the dual benefit of supplying nitrogen and calcium, it generally has a lower nitrogen content than AN. This dual utility can be especially beneficial in calcium-deficient soils where the nutrient helps in the optimal development of plant cells and roots. In contrast, AN, with a higher nitrogen concentration, may provide a more immediate and intense boost of this nutrient to crops, potentially fostering rapid vegetative growth.
When considering storage and stability, CAN tends to be a safer choice compared to AN. Calcium Ammonium Nitrate is not known for being a significant explosion risk, due to the presence of calcium which dampens its explosive properties. Conversely, Ammonium Nitrate, under certain conditions, can be very dangerous and has been associated with several industrial explosions due to its potential instability under specific circumstances.
Utilization of CAN is often considered to be environmentally friendlier due to the lower risk of nitrogen leaching. The calcium component aids in reducing the potential leaching of nitrogen into water bodies, which can minimize environmental impacts. Ammonium Nitrate, however, has been associated with higher risks of nitrogen leaching, potentially leading to issues like eutrophication in adjacent water bodies.
Both CAN and AN are predominantly used as fertilizers but their application needs to be managed judiciously. While CAN provides a balanced nutrient profile, especially in calcium-poor soils, and is generally safer to store, AN can deliver a rapid nitrogen boost but comes with environmental and safety considerations that need to be managed carefully.

Comparison Chart

Nutritional Content

Contains calcium and nitrogen.
Contains only nitrogen.

Safety and Stability

Generally safer and more stable.
Can be unstable and hazardous.

Nitrogen Concentration

Usually lower nitrogen content.
Higher nitrogen content.

Environmental Impact

Lower risk of nitrogen leaching.
Higher risk of nitrogen leaching.

Physical Characteristics

Often in granular form and slightly hygroscopic.
Typically prilled or granulated and highly soluble.

Compare with Definitions

Calcium Ammonium Nitrate

A generally safe and stable nitrogenous fertilizer.
Farmers store Calcium Ammonium Nitrate without fearing significant explosion risks.

Ammonium Nitrate

A fertilizer offering a high nitrogen concentration.
Ammonium Nitrate quickly releases nitrogen into the soil, boosting plant growth.

Calcium Ammonium Nitrate

An environmentally considerate fertilizer option.
The use of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate minimizes the risk of nitrogen leaching into water bodies.

Ammonium Nitrate

A potentially hazardous and explosive chemical.
The explosion in Texas was traced back to stored Ammonium Nitrate.

Calcium Ammonium Nitrate

A source of two essential plant nutrients.
Calcium Ammonium Nitrate provides the crops with both calcium and nitrogen.

Ammonium Nitrate

A substance with possible environmental implications.
Excessive use of Ammonium Nitrate can lead to nitrogen leaching and eutrophication.

Calcium Ammonium Nitrate

A granulated fertilizer with slightly hygroscopic properties.
Calcium Ammonium Nitrate granules are spread evenly across the fields.

Ammonium Nitrate

A common component in instant cold packs.
Ammonium Nitrate in the cold pack undergoes an endothermic reaction, providing instant coolness.

Calcium Ammonium Nitrate

A fertilizer providing nitrogen and calcium.
Calcium Ammonium Nitrate is added to supplement nutrient-deficient soils.

Ammonium Nitrate

A highly soluble nitrogenous fertilizer.
Due to its solubility, Ammonium Nitrate is readily available to plants upon application.

Common Curiosities

What are the key components of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate?

Calcium Ammonium Nitrate contains calcium and nitrogen.

Is Ammonium Nitrate safe for use in all settings?

No, Ammonium Nitrate can be hazardous and must be handled and stored carefully.

Why is Ammonium Nitrate favored in some agricultural practices?

Its high nitrogen content and solubility make Ammonium Nitrate rapidly available to plants.

Can Ammonium Nitrate cause environmental problems?

Yes, excessive use of Ammonium Nitrate can lead to nitrogen leaching and subsequent eutrophication.

Can Calcium Ammonium Nitrate be used as an explosive?

No, Calcium Ammonium Nitrate is typically not used as an explosive due to its stability.

In what forms is Ammonium Nitrate available for agricultural use?

Ammonium Nitrate is available in prilled and granulated forms.

Why might Ammonium Nitrate be chosen despite its safety concerns?

Its high nitrogen availability and impact on crop growth might outweigh concerns in some contexts.

Can both Calcium Ammonium Nitrate and Ammonium Nitrate be used for the same crops?

Yes, but the choice between them should consider soil needs, safety, and environmental impact.

Is Calcium Ammonium Nitrate hygroscopic?

Yes, Calcium Ammonium Nitrate can be slightly hygroscopic.

Why might one choose Calcium Ammonium Nitrate over other fertilizers?

It provides both nitrogen and calcium and is considered safe and stable.

How does Calcium Ammonium Nitrate benefit plants?

It provides essential nitrogen and calcium, supporting growth and cell structure.

How does Calcium Ammonium Nitrate impact soil health?

It enriches the soil with nitrogen and calcium, enhancing nutrient availability.

Is Calcium Ammonium Nitrate soluble in water?

Yes, it is soluble, facilitating nutrient uptake by plants.

Is Ammonium Nitrate always dangerous?

No, but it can be under certain conditions, so strict safety protocols are essential.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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