New faculty Q & A: Erin Silva

Erin Silva is not new to campus, but in case you haven’t heard, she’s a new member of the CALS faculty: She recently moved from her post of associate scientist in the agronomy department to that of assistant professor in the plant pathology department.


Describe your career path up to this point.
I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology from UW-Stevens Point.  During that time, I was able to participate in two internships through CALS at UW-Madison—one in dairy science and one in horticulture. It was through these experiences that I became interested in agriculture.  After graduating from UWSP, I went on to Washington State University to complete a master’s degree and Ph.D. in horticulture with a focus on vegetable physiology. I then returned to UW-Madison to begin a postdoc with Phil Simon through the USDA Vegetable Crops Research Unit. From there, I moved onto a faculty position at New Mexico State University before returning again to UW-Madison.

What is the main focus of your research program?
My research focuses on production practices to enhance the productivity and profitability of organic and sustainable cropping systems. This includes vegetables, row crops and pasture-based systems. The two main research areas of my program include cover crop systems (with a particular emphasis on cover crop-based reduced-tillage techniques) and variety performance in organic production systems. Additionally, my extension program focuses on the implementation of food safety practices on vegetable farms, as well as tools to determine cost-of-production on diversified farms.

What drew you to UW-Madison?
Wisconsin is an incredible state in which to conduct agricultural research. The innovativeness and energy of the farming community, the diversity of agriculture throughout the state and the size and scope of organic agriculture all contribute to the making this state one of the best places in the country to conduct organic research and extension programming. Additionally, the wealth of knowledge and skill of the UW-Madison faculty and  the UW-Extension county-based faculty and staff allow for the implementation of strong interdisciplinary research and extension programs that will contribute to Wisconsin’s agriculture.

What do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy running, hiking, and generally being outdoors.