5 Amazing Uses of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer | CAN

You will love this in-depth guide if you want to know about the uses of calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer (CAN).

But first, let me introduce calcium ammonium nitrate to you.

CAN is nitrogen fertilizer. It contains longer-lasting ammonium nitrogen and fast-acting nitrate nitrogen.

Now you might be wondering, what are nitrogen fertilizers?

To be precise, they provide a steady (constant) supply of nitrogen to your plants. Let me explain all this to you in detail.

What is Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN):

Here’s something interesting.

It is also known as nitro-limestone or nitrochalk. Now, here’s the composition of CAN.

  • Nitrogen: 21-27%
  • Calcium: 8% (roughly)

It also contains other nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and sulfur. Note that the composition slightly varies for different fertilizers.

Now, here’s how these minerals are important for your plant.


It is a source of energy for metabolic reactions such as respiration, photosynthesis, and nitrogen fixation.

In plants, it causes good leaf growth as well. Can you guess why this is so?

The answer is simple. Plants use nitrogen to make proteins and amino acids.

Remember that nitrogen enhances the function of chlorophyll. Well, what is chlorophyll?

We all have heard about “photosynthesis”. Well, this organelle is responsible for carbohydrate formation through photosynthesis.

Amazing, isn’t it?

uses of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer

Now, I have a question for you. How do plants obtain nitrogen?

Remember that plants cannot take up nitrogen directly from the atmosphere.

It is obtained when ammonia is added to the soil, and the plant takes up nitrogen in the form of NH₄⁺ and NO₃⁻ ions.

Pretty simple, right?

Summary: It nurtures your grass, and makes it greener, thicker, and lusher.


As I mentioned above, the CAN fertilizer contains roughly 8% calcium.

Here’s why it is important.

Calcium plays an important part in producing plant tissues. In simple words, it is involved in plant growth.

Moreover, it holds together the cell walls (tough structural layer for support and protection) of plants.

Simple, isn’t it?

Remember that calcium deficiency inhibits the growth of your plant. This causes it to have a “bushy appearance”.

Summary: To be precise, this nutrient has a structural role in the cell wall and membrane.


Why is sulfur used in fertilizers?

The answer is simple.

A Plant makes proteins, amino acids, and oil by using sulfur. Moreover, it is used to form chlorophyll.

It can also activate many vitamins and enzymes.

Now, here’s something interesting.

In legume crops, it facilitates nitrogen fixation as well. This is a process in which inert atmospheric nitrogen is converted into more-reactive nitrogen compounds.

These include ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites.

Remember that it is absorbed by the plants in the form of sulfate.

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

This takes us straight to our next topic.

Uses of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer:

If you are planning to use this fertilizer, here are some things that you should consider.

Overview: What are the uses of calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer? The ideal ratio of nitrate and ammonium makes it great for plants. Moreover, it prevents nitrogen deficiency. It is great for acidic soils, and you do not have to worry about volatilization losses.

Here are the details.

  • It is a “universal fertilizer“.

Let me explain.

We can use the CAN fertilizer for almost all types of plants and crops. This is because nitrate and ammonium are present in it in an ideal ratio.

Over here, recall that nitrate is a primary source of nitrogen for plants.

Nitrate is then used by plants to make proteins. In the same way, ammonium is also a source of nitrogen.

uses of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer

This takes us straight to the next point.

  • It prevents nitrogen deficiency in your plants.

As we discussed earlier, calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer contains 21-27% nitrogen.

Nitrogen deficiency can lead to the following problems:

  1. Slow growth.
  1. Pale yellowish-green plant.
  1. Reduced tiller development.

To be precise, less nitrogen can cause wilting and poor leaf growth.

  • There is no considerable loss of Nitrogen (volatilization).

To obtain nitrogen, we can also use urea (46-0-0) as well. But, why is CAN preferred?

The answer is simple. The urea fertilizer is subjected to volatilization losses.

Let me explain.

Note that volatilization is the conversion of a liquid chemical into a vapour (lost into the atmosphere).

If you are using calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN), you do not have to worry about volatilization losses.

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

  • It is great for acidic soils.

The reason is simple.

It acidifies soil less than other common nitrogen fertilizers.

Now you might be wondering, why is that important?

Alkaline soils (pH above 7) are less soluble than neutral or acidic soils. This may cause some plants to have stunted growth or nutrient deficiencies.

Note: This makes CAN a good alternative to other nitrogen fertilizers, such as urea, ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate (21-0-0).

I have a question for you. What makes your soil acidic?

Hydrogen ions! Remember that elemental sulfur decreases the pH of the soil.

With this, let’s move on to the next topic.

Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) vs Urea:

Before using any nitrogen fertilizer, this is something that you should consider.

  • The NPK ratio of urea is 46-0-0.

“NPK” refers to the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. This shows that there is 46% nitrogen in urea.

What is the percentage of nitrogen in CAN?

As I mentioned above, it is 21-27%.

uses of calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer

So, here’s the takeaway. Urea fertilizer provides more nitrogen than calcium ammonium nitrate.

But, there’s a problem. For that, move on to the next point.

  • The urea fertilizer is subjected to volatilization losses.

Recall that volatilization is the conversion of a liquid chemical into a vapour (lost into the atmosphere).

Quick fact: If applied incorrectly, up to 40% of Nitrogen can be vaporized and lost as a gas

The idea is that nitrogen is lost.

On the other hand, the calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer (CAN) is stable. So, you should not worry about volatilization losses.

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

  • CAN is a good choice for acidic soils.

Here’s a problem with nitrogen fertilizers.

As the ammonium-N in fertilizers undergoes nitrification (conversion of ammonium to nitrate), hydrogen ions are released.

These ions increase the acidity of soils.

Related: Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer | 34-0-0

Now you might be wondering, what makes CAN better?

As the percentage of ammonium increases, the acidifying potential increases.

In simple words, the acidifying potential of urea is greater than CAN (calcium ammonium nitrate).

Note: Calcium nitrate does not contain ammonium-N. So, it does not acidify the soil.

Pretty simple, right?

  • Urea has a lower cost per pound of nitrogen.

As we discussed earlier, a kilogram of urea contains more nitrogen than a kilogram of CAN.

To be precise, the CAN fertilizer costs more per pound of nitrogen than Urea.

With this, let’s move on to the next topic.

How and When to Apply CAN Fertilizer?

Before talking about this topic, here’s something that you should know.

When applying the CAN fertilizer, you have to be careful. This is because over-application can damage your plant.

So here’s the step-by-step guide.


  • Conduct a soil test.

This is something that you should consider.

As the name suggests, soil testing tells the expected growth potential. Here’s what I mean.

This test will help you identify the level of nitrogen in your soil. In this way, you can determine the amount of fertilizer you need.

  • For the best application rates, follow the instructions on the package.

The table below will help you better understand the application rate for nitrogen fertilizers.

% Nitrogen Listed on Fertilizer BagPounds of Fertilizer to Apply to 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn to Achieve 1 lb. of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft.
Source: Rutgers
  • Generally, spread granular fertilizers evenly with your hand.

You can also use a fertilizer spreader. When applying, spread it in a circular manner (away from any exposed roots).

After the application, water it properly so that the granules merge into the soil.

This will ensure that the nutrients reach the root system of the plant.

Note: Soils with high organic content require less frequent applications of fertilizer.

This is due to compost and other amendments that supplement the soil.

how to apply calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer

Now the question is when to apply calcium ammonium nitrate? Here’s what you should know.


Let’s break down this topic.

  • Apply in the early fruit development period.

As you already know, CAN is a source of calcium and nitrogen.

During the early development stage, calcium stabilizes cells so they do not collapse. On the other hand, nitrogen “fuels plant growth”.

  • In some cases, you should avoid fall applications.

Let me explain.

Fall applications have a greater risk of loss of nitrogen. In the same way, fall applications of liquid nitrogen have high leaching potential.

So, here’s what you should do.

For warm season grasses: For grasses like Bermuda and St. Augustine, use nitrogen fertilizers throughout summer.

For cool season grasses: For grasses like Kentucky Bluegrass, Fescue and Ryegrass, you can use nitrogen fertilizers in spring and fall.

The idea is that the demand for nitrogen is high during the late vegetative and early reproductive stages.

Note that the fertilizer is completely absorbed by the soil in 2-4 weeks. So, you can space out the applications by a month.

As I mentioned above, read the instructions on the package carefully.

This is because over-application can damage your plant.

This takes us straight to our next topic.

Can I use Calcium Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer for Grass?

Quick answer: Yes! You can use CAN fertilizer for grass.

Here’s why.

Note that lawn grass needs a steady supply of nitrogen. This fertilizer is an excellent source of nitrogen.

Since nitrogen promotes foliar growth and colour, it makes your grass greener.

Remember that the overuse of nitrogen without providing other nutrients can make your soil infertile.

In the same way, calcium is an extremely important nutrient. It ensures healthy roots and tasty fruits.

As we discussed earlier, calcium is responsible for plants’ metabolism and enzyme activity.

Over here, here’s something that you should know.

Grass also requires other nutrients such as copper, molybdenum, zinc, manganese and boron.

Important note: The ideal time for fertilizing your grass is when the temperature reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

For most places, this time is usually from March to April. But, it may vary according to your location as well.

Can I use CAN Fertilizer for Tomatoes?

Here’s a thing.

Growing tomatoes is tricky. But, do not worry. Here’s everything you should know.

Tomatoes need high phosphorus fertilizers such as 6-24-24 and 8-32-16. You should be careful when applying them.

This is because over-application can destroy your plant.

calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer for tomatoes

Over time, you can use the CAN fertilizer to fulfil the nitrogen and calcium requirement.

Plus, it is an excellent choice during the fruiting stages. To be precise, you can use this fertilizer for tomatoes.

Related: Mushroom Compost for Tomatoes | The Ultimate Guide

With this, let’s talk about some disadvantages of chemical fertilizers.

The Disadvantages:

The truth is that chemical fertilizers have some disadvantages as well. Here are some of them.

  • They may crust on top of the soil.

What is soil crusting?

It refers to a dense and thin layer of tough material. Note that inorganic fertilizers only provide a “quick fix“.

As the word suggests, they are not good for the soil in the longer run.

In the same way, overfertilization can damage your plants. For example, excess nitrogen can make your plant vulnerable to diseases.

  • They contain harmful chemicals.

This is the reason why some people prefer organic options.

They do not want chemicals seeping into the soil. In the same way, inorganic fertilizers may contain a lot of salt. This can build up in your soil.

This takes us to the conclusion.

Wrapping Up:

So, there you have it.

In this article, we covered the uses of calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer. To be precise, it is a great source of nitrogen and calcium.

So, you can use it for tomatoes and grass.

You should be careful when applying this fertilizer as it can cause “chemical burns“.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch. Stay tuned for more.

Further reading:

What is 30-10-10 Fertilizer Used For | Best Guide

12-4-8 Fertilizer | All You Need to Know

5 Amazing Uses of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer | CAN

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