Unconventional feeds for small ruminants in dry areas have a minor effect on manure nitrogen flow in the soil–plant system
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In dry areas, unconventional feeds are increasingly used for mitigating feed shortages and rangeland degradation. We evaluated how feeding sheep diets containing olive leaves, saltbush leaves and olive cake affects manure quality compared to a barley straw based diet. Soil incubation and plant growth experiments were carried out to measure soil nitrogen (N) mineralization and N uptake by barley plants and to calculate N flow through the feed-animal-soil–plant system. Fresh feces, composts consisting of feces, urine and straw, and ammonium sulfate fertilizer were mixed with soil at rate of 90 mg N kg−1 soil dry matter. Comparisons were made with non-amended soils (control) and soils amended with fresh olive cake applied at 90 and 22.5 mg N kg−1 soil dry matter, respectively. The latter treatment enabled investigation of the effect of passage of olive cake through the digestive tract of sheep on N availability and phenol transformation. Applying fresh olive cake and feces, except the saltbush leaf derived feces, resulted in a net N immobilization. All composts resulted in net N mineralization, although not significantly different from the 0N control soil. Barley growing in soils with amendment that caused N immobilization took up less N than barley growing on the 0N treatment. Reduction in N uptake was most pronounced after amendment with fresh-olive cake. Treatments with net mineralization increased barley N uptake over the 0N treatment with 2–16 % of N applied being taken up. Dietary composition had a minor effect on N fertilizer value of either feces or compost, but feces N alone was not an efficient N source.