A field study was conducted at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines during the dry seasons of 1997 and 1998 under irrigated conditions. The objectives of this study were to quantify the critical leaf area index (LAIc) at which tillering stops based on the relationship between tillering rate and LAI, and to determine the effect of nitrogen (N) on LAIc in irrigated rice (Oryza sativa L.) crop. Results showed that the relative tillering rate (RTR) decreased exponentially as LAI increased at a given N input level. The coefficient of determination for the equation quantifying the RTR-LAI relationship ranged from 0·87 to 0·99. The relationship between RTR and LAI was affected by N input level, but not by planting density. The N input level had a significant effect on LAIc with a high N input level causing an increase in LAIc. Tillering stopped at LAI of 3·36 to 4·11 when N was not limiting. Under N limited conditions LAIc reduced to as low as 0·98. Transplanting spacing and number of seedlings per hill had little effect on LAIc. Results from this study suggest that LAI and plant N status are two major factors that influence tiller production in rice crops. The possibility that LAI influences tillering by changing light intensity and/or light quality at the base of the canopy where tiller buds and young tillers are located is discussed.