The isolation and detailed characterisation of the maize mutant Irt1, which is completely deficient in the initiation of lateral roots at the primary and seminal lateral roots and of the crown roots at the coleoptilar node is described. The monogenic and recessive mutant was isolated from a segregating EMS mutagenised population, maps to the short arm of chromosome 2, and acts independently of the nodal root deficient rtcs locus. Histological analysis revealed that the mutation acts at a very early stage of root initiation, as indicated by the absence of primordia formation in the affected roots. At later stages of plant development lateral and crown root initiations recover leading to fertile plants. If grown in the dark, the mutant does not form an elongated mesocotyl, although the photomorphogenic response appears to be normal in the mutant. Furthermore, the wild-type cannot be rescued from mutants by the application of auxin to germinating kernels. The gene impaired in Irt1 seems to be of great importance for the general mechanism of early post-embryonic root initiation, both from root and nodal tissues, since lateral and crown root initiation are both affected to the same extent and in the same transient time pattern.