Eleni Pliakoni

Urban Food Production
Postharvest Handling

Dr. Elani Pliakoni is an Associate Professor of Urban Food Production and Postharvest Handling at Kansas State University's Olathe campus



Contact Info



Eleni D. Pliakoni, Ph.D., is a professor in urban food production and postharvest handling in the department of horticulture and natural resources at Kansas State University, and the Director of the Urban Food Systems Initiative. Pliakoni works at the K-State Olathe campus and joined K-State April 2013.

She is supporting and expanding the Urban Food Systems M.S. specialization and the interdisciplinary Urban Food Systems graduate certificate in the Kansas City metro area and around the county. The graduate courses she teaches include urban agriculture, urban agriculture study tour, urban food systems, professional development in urban food systems, farm to fork produce safety and postharvest physiology and technology.

She has more than 20 years of experience working with postharvest handling of fresh fruits and vegetables in Florida, Greece, Spain and Texas.

Her research program is focused on postharvest physiology as a component of sustainable and urban agriculture systems. The combination of postharvest technology with urban food production is of major importance considering the challenge of feeding the worlds growing population. Determining ways of minimizing loss/waste in the food system is part of the solution.

She also is involved in international work led a team from KSU, UF and Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) that received a grant from the Horticulture Innovation Lab United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to build capacity in postharvest management of horticultural crops in Tanzania. The main goal of the project was to reduce postharvest losses and increase access to nutritious food. Recently she worked with Feed the Future Innovation lab for the reduction of postharvest losses in Bangladesh and Ghana.

Starting in 2019, she has established the first analytical lab in Kansas for cannabinoids analysis, offering two levels of cannabinoid testing.

Download Dr. Pliakoni's CV



  • Ph.D. in Agricultural Sciences, University of Thessaly
  • M.S. in Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Crete
  • B.S./M.S. in Agriculture from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki


Research Interests

Pliakoni and her lab are identifying preharvest factors that affect the physiological and nutritional quality of horticultural crops with the goal of increasing the availability of nutritious, fresh produce

They are working to improve growing practices in terms of food safety and quality. This includes improving the marketable quality of produce, increasing its shelf life and increasing nutritional aspects that benefit human health.

Additionally, they investigate postharvest handling techniques that could be applied by small-acreage, local and urban growers for increased profitability and to reduce postharvest losses.

Moreover, she is exploring the effects of various postharvest handling methods on shelf life, flavour and nutritional quality and consumer preference of fresh produce.

Finally, a more recent area of her research is focused on handling and storage of crop transplants.

Her long-term research goal is to be able to address the issue of food security by reducing pre- and postharvest losses and increase availability of healthy and nutritious food for the growing population. 


Publications/Scholarly Work

  • Zhao, Y., O.C. Haley, X. Xu, M. Jaberi-Douraki, C. Rivard, E.D. Pliakoni, L. Nwadike, M. Bhullar. 2023. The Potential for Cover Crops to Reduce the Load of Escherichia coli in Contaminated Agricultural Soil. J Food Prot. 86 (7): 100103.
  • Haley, O.C., E.D. Pliakoni, C. Rivard, L. Nwadike and M. Bhullar. 2023.The Attenuation of Microbial Reduction in Blueberry Fruit Following UV-LED Treatment. J Food Prot. 86 (3) 100056.
  • Gude, K.M. C.B. Rajashekar, W. Wang, K. Ayub, Q. Kang, C.L. Rivard and E.D. Pliakoni. 2022. Effects of various high tunnel coverings on color and phenolic compounds of red and green leaf lettuce (Lactuca sativa). J Food and Nutr. Health 3(1):1-10
  • Batziakas K., S. Singh, H. Stanley, J.K. Brecht, C.L. Rivard and E.D. Pliakoni. 2022. An innovative approach for maintaining the quality of pink tomatoes stored at optimum an above-optimum temperatures using passive modified atmosphere packaging. Food Packaging 34, 100981
  • Batziakas K., T. Jenkins, H. Stanley, B. Cunningham, Q. Kang, C. Rivard and E.D. Pliakoni. 2022. Effect of high tunnel production systems on the preharvest losses and harvest quality of ‘BHN 589’ and ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomatoes. HortTechnology 32 (6): 507-509
  • Jenkins T., C. Rivard, J. Cowan and E.D. Pliakoni. 2022. Effect of rootstock on ‘Tasti-Lee’ tomato yield and fruit quality in a high tunnel production system. HortScience 57 (10): 1235-124
  • Jenkins T., C. Kubota, C.L. Rivard and E.D. Pliakoni. 2022. Evaluating ethylene sensitivity and exogenous ethylene impact on early growth of grafted and nongrafted tomato seedlings. HortTechnology 32(2):129-133
  • Gude, K.M. E.D. Pliakoni, B. Cunningham, K. Ayub, Q. Kang, C.B. Rajashekar, and C.L. Rivard. 2022. High tunnel coverings alter crop productivity and microclimate of tomato and lettuce. HortScience 57(2):265-272
  • Ahlawat Y., S.Li, P.R. Timilsena, E.D. Pliakoni, J.K. Brecht and T. Liu. 2022. Identification of senescence-associated genes in broccoli (Brassica oleracea) following harvest. Postharvest Biology and Technology 183, 111729
  • Gude K.M., M. Talavera, A.M. Sasse, C.L. Rivard and E.D. Pliakoni. 2021.Effect of light characteristics on the sensory properties of red lettuce (Lactuca sativa). Foods 10(11): 2660
  • Lee, M., C.L. Rivard, W. Wang, E. D. Pliakoni, K. Gude, C. Rajashekar. 2021. Spectral blocking of solar radiation in high tunnels by poly covers: its impact on nutritional quality regarding essential nutrients an health-promoting phytochemicals in lettuce and tomato. Horticulturae 27; 7(12): 527
  • Unruh D.A., K.J. Stull, E.D. Pliakoni and S.E. Gragg. 2021. A bisulfate of soda and peroxyacetic acid solution reduces salmonella on fresh-cut spinach. Food Protection Trends 41(4): 409-415
  • Gude, K., H. Stanley, C.L. Rivard, B. Cunningham, Q. Kang, and E.D. Pliakoni. 2021.Quality of day-neutral strawberries grown in a high tunnel system. Scientia Horticulturae 275, 19726
  • Lee, M., C.L. Rivard, E.D. Pliakoni, W. Wang, C.B. Rajashekar 2021. Supplemental UV-A and UV-B affect the nutritional quality of lettuce and tomato: Health-promoting phytochemicals and essential nutrients. American Journal of Plant Sciences 12:104-126
  • Gude, K.M., C.B., Rajashekar, B., Cunningham, Q., Kang, W., Wang, M., Lee, C.L., Rivard and E.D. Pliakoni. 2020. Effect of High Tunnel Coverings on Antioxidants of Breaker and Light Red Tomatoes at Harvest and during Ripening. Agronomy 10, 1639.
  • Batziakas, K.G., S. Singh, K. Ayub, Q. Kang, J. Brecht, C. L. Rivard, and E.D. Pliakoni. 2020. Reducing Post-harvest Losses of Spinach Stored in Non-Optimum Temperatures with the Implementation of Passive Modified Atmosphere Packaging. HortScience 55 (3): 326-335
  • Batziakas, K.G., C.L. Rivard, H. Stanley and E.D. Pliakoni. 2020. Reducing Pre-harvest Food Losses in Spinach with the Implementation of High Tunnels. Scientia Horticulturae 265:109268
  • Batziakas, K.G., H., Stanley, A.G., Batziakas, J.K Brecht, C. L. Rivard, and E.D. Pliakoni. 2020. Reducing postharvest food losses in organic spinach with the implementation of high tunnel production systems. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 40, 42
  • Trinetta, V., A. McDaniel, K.G. Batziakas, U. Yucel, L. Nwadike, E.D. Pliakoni. 2020. Antifungal Packaging Film to Maintain Quality and Control Postharvest Diseases in Strawberries. Antibiotics 9, 618.
  • Stanley, H., K.G. Batziakas, S.E. Gragg, C.L. Rivard, E.D. Pliakoni. 2020. Impact of modified atmosphere packaging and ozonated water on the shelf life, quality, and safety of vegetables stored at non optimum temperatures. J. Postharvest Technol., 2020, 08 (3): 79-95


Teaching Schedule

HORT 725: Postharvest Handlings and Physiology of Horticultural Crops (Spring)

HORT 791: Urban Agriculture (Fall)

HORT 792 – Urban Food Production Practicum (Fall, Spring)

HORT 793: Farm to Fork Produce Safety (Fall)

HORT 794: Urban Food Systems (Spring)

HORT 795: Urban Agriculture Study Tour (Fall)

HORT 796: Professional Development in Urban Food Systems (Fall, Spring)



Current Ph.D./M.S. students
  • Rebecca Merkley

Past Ph.D./Master's students
  • Konstantinos Batziakas
  • Kelly Gude
  • Tricia Jenkins
  • Amrita Mukherjee
  • Joseph Rundquist
  • Kristin Taylor


Degree Program Affiliation


Professional Affiliations