Despite the fact that calcium cyanamide fertiliser is hazardous to one’s health, it is nonetheless widely employed. We describe the fertilizer’s drawbacks and suggest alternatives.
Calcium cyanamide combines nitrogen fertilisation with soil liming and broad suppression of hazardous organisms. However, as we will show, what appears fair at first glance and is represented as such by producers of the fertiliser actually has some serious drawbacks.
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What is Calcium Cyanamide fertilizer
Calcium cyanamide is the chemical name for CaNCN or CaCN2. For more than a century, this grey-black powder or granules have been generated by binding atmospheric free nitrogen to calcium carbide at hot temperatures and with considerable energy consumption.
Nitrogen makes up 19.8 percent of the chemical, calcium oxide makes up 60%, and the remaining is carbon with impurities like iron and aluminium. Calcium cyanamide is a multifunctional nitrogen fertiliser since it delivers not only nitrogen but also lime and possesses herbicidal, bactericidal, and fungicidal properties.
How does Calcium Cyanamide fertilizer work
When calcium cyanamide comes into touch with liquid water in the soil, it becomes activated. Even at low temperatures, the reaction occurs. We discern three distinct impacts of calcium cyanamide fertiliser below.
Calcium hydroxide (slaked lime) is created, which is highly soluble in water and can rapidly raise soil pH or be absorbed by plants. One-third of the lime present is in slower-acting lime forms. Liming the topsoil layer enhances soil structure produces stable particles promotes soil aeration and water absorption and stimulates soil respiration.
The pH of the soil is increased. Because the lime effect is equal to 60% CaO, calcium cyanamide can be liming like limestone with 60 grammes of calcium oxide in 100 grammes.
The nitrogen is found as cyanamide after dissolution (H2CN2). After a few days, this is transformed to urea and, to a lesser amount, dicyandiamide (DCD). While urea quickly converts to ammonium and nitrates available to plants, the DCD remains in the soil for a longer period of time without being converted. As a result, there is a long-term effect, and the fertilised nitrogen becomes less susceptible to leaching.
Cyanamide is efficient against several weeds, unwanted plants and their seeds, pests, slugs, wireworms, and several soil-borne fungi, like plasmodia, that are single-celled parasites of cabbage plants, in the top three to four centimetres of soil (Plasmodiophora brassicae). This impact, however, is only transient because the cyanamide is still being transformed.
Disadvantages of Using Calcium Cyanamide as fertilizer
A US health authority opinion issued in 2016 concluded that calcium cyanamide can impair human wellbeing and pollute surface and groundwater quality. Furthermore, intake of cyanamide, such as dust, can result in calcium cyanamide disease.
Cyanamide inhibits the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, which really is responsible for acetaldehyde degradation in the blood. Acetaldehyde is a byproduct of ethanol (drinking alcohol) that causes dizziness, nausea, and flushing. As a result, if alcohol is drunk after consuming cyanamide, even tiny amounts will result in an extremely unpleasant, long-lasting nausea as the acetaldehyde builds in the blood.
However, when used correctly – particularly by wearing a face shield – cyanamide intake is avoided. Because calcium cyanamide fertiliser is caustic, gloves should always be worn when applying it.
The flexible nitrogen fertiliser also has some drawbacks: it has a severe humus-depleting effect since it quickly promotes bacterial soil life by elevating the pH value for several weeks. To generate energy, these creatures consume a tremendous amount of carbon. Nevertheless, since calcium cyanamide can not provide an organic, carbon-rich substrate, the bacteria feed on the soil’s natural carbon or humus.
At the same time, the abrupt increase in pH harms fungi, which are also incredibly important soil builders. This cannot be advantageous to us because many fungi are in symbiosis with plants. The biocidal action of cyanamide is, of course, compounded to this effect. Its effect naturally does not distinguish between dangerous and good bacteria, fungus, and plants – instead, it strikes a broad swath into soil life like a chemical club.
Alternatives to Calcium Cyanamide fertilizers
Soil nitrogen requirements are satisfied in a much more resource-saving, natural, and soil-friendly manner when primarily organic fertilisers are used. If you must use calcium cyanamide, for example, to prevent having to dispose of old stocks, we strongly advise you to first determine the pH value of your soil in order to avoid driving it to plant-intolerant heights.
The simultaneous inclusion of stable organic material, such as straw, bark humus, or bark mulch, aids in the protection of humus in the soil. An alternative to calcium cyanamide’s broad biocidal activity is the focused management and, in some circumstances, benevolent tolerance of species that do not always offer us a direct advantage in the home garden but invariably fulfil an ecological benefit.