A PLANTING in 1999-2000 at Perillup has added a further 210ha of wine grapes to the already expansive WA wine industry. Palandri Wines, Margaret River and Perth, has employed Quenby Viticultural Services, Mt Barker, to develop the vineyard on land which for 30 years grew wool and grain for Tony and Oriel Riggall's Coates Grange Grazing Company. Mr Riggall, a Palandri director, is now based in Europe, developing markets there for wines made in Palandri's Margaret River winery by winemaker Tony Carapetis, formerly with Chateau Tahbilk, Victoria. Quenby Viticultural Services director Rob Quenby has managed the development of vineyards at Mt Barker and Frankland and now Perillup. "When taking on a project like the one at Perillup, I try to take and use the advantages the site offers, always with economies of scale in mind," Mr Quenby said. "I soil test the area on a 75m grid and define the soil's water holding capacity. Another factor is consideration of client's choice of varieties of grapes to be planted and the need to consider soil type and slope with reference to the varieties." Mr Quenby said, when developing large management units, time and motion studies were important in keeping the vineyard owner's costs down. At Frankland's Acacia Ridge and Palandri's Perillup vineyards, lineal planting cuts tractor driving time and vertical vine shoot positioning assists mechanical pruning and harvesting and lowers labour costs, which can be substantial. During the vine training period, up to 50 people could be employed at Perillup under the direction of former Agriculture WA technician Grant Lubcke. Sleeping accommodation can be provided for up to 17. "Vine and row spacings are often based on client's specifics," Mr Quenby said. "At Perillup, we have rows three metres apart and vines in the rows 1.8m apart. "These spacings optimise the land use, also in machinery terms, and enable us to get high yields/ha. "Choice of grape variety is the owner's prerogative, but I might make recommendations based on suitability for the site characteristics." Irrigation is essential if optimum yields are to be achieved. At Perillup, the aim is to provide 2000 cubic metres of stored water per hectare of vines. It is anticipated about 1300cu m/ha will be applied in year 2000. Four dams with holding capacities of 150,000, 110,000, 80,000, and 70,000 cu m have been built and fed from 28ha of roaded catchments and several kilometres of drains. There are four late model Massey Ferguson tractors and two older models used at Perillup. Mr Quenby estimates the four MFs will each do 1000 hours work in year 2000. "There's a lot of inter-row mileage in 210ha of vines. In any one year, there could be eight to 10 fungicide applications alone to do and a sprayer travels 3.33km for every hectare sprayed," he said. The spraying is done using a leading edge Greentech sprayer, made in South Australia by Ben Buck. "This machine gives a fantastic control of air movement and its coverage is brilliant," Mr Quenby said. "It's enabled us to cut the spray volume down considerably, while it covers two rows of vines." Two picking machines removed the grapes at the Acacia Ridge, Frankland, vineyard and the three vineyards near Mt Barker. A third could come into play in 2001, as Palandri comes into production, according to Mr Quenby. Acacia Ridge vines yielded up to 6t/ha from 20-month-old vines and, in March 2001, the Palandri vineyard may go close to repeating this tonnage. "We push the young wines to achieve yield by watering and nutrition," Mr Quenby said. "There's got to a balance ‹ the first priority is a good healthy vine from a first year vegetative growth above grape quality. "Red wines get their colour from the skin, so there's compromise between berry size and managing for the skin." His viticultural service has a five-year contract to develop and manage the Perillup vineyard. Phosphorus is the critical element in nutrition. A shotgun mix of trace elements is added to it. A high nitrogen input during the first two years of the vine hastens vegetative growth. Phosphorus and potassium are kept in balance. Shiraz, cabernet and merlot comprise about 70pc of the reds planted at Palandri's Perillup site. Chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc and semillon dominate in the whites. Mr Quenby said, by 2006, Palandri could be trucking 54,000t of grapes across to its Margaret River winery annually, from yields of 12t/ha. "We're lucky in having an experienced person in Grant Lubcke working for us at Perillup," Mr Quenby said. "Finding good staff is an issue and we're always looking for the right person as expansion hasn't come to an end. Generally speaking, the industry relies more and more on exporting into a market sure to become increasingly competitive."