Potato (Solanum tuberosumL.) originates from the Andes and evolved short-day-dependent tuber formation as a vegetative propagation strategy. Here we describe the identification of a central regulator underlying a major-effect quantitative trait locus for plant maturity and initiation of tuber development. We show that this gene belongs to the family of DOF (DNA-binding with one finger) transcription factors1and regulates tuberization and plant life cycle length, by acting as a mediator between the circadian clock and the StSP6A mobile tuberization signal2. We also show that natural allelic variants evade post-translational light regulation, allowing cultivation outside the geographical centre of origin of potato. Potato is a member of the Solanaceae family and is one of the world’s most important food crops. This annual plant originates from the Andean regions of South America3. Potato develops tubers from underground stems called stolons. Its equatorial origin makes potato essentially short-day dependent for tuberization and potato will not make tubers in the long-day conditions of spring and summer in the northern latitudes. When introduced in temperate zones, wild material will form tubers in the course of the autumnal shortening of day-length. Thus, one of the first selected traits in potato leading to a European potato type4is likely to have been long-day acclimation for tuberization. Potato breeders can exploit the naturally occurring variation in tuberization onset and life cycle length, allowing varietal breeding for different latitudes, harvest times and markets.