Yield potential, plant height and heading date are three classes of traits that determine the productivity of many crop plants. Here we show that the quantitative trait locus (QTL) Ghd7, isolated from an elite rice hybrid and encoding a CCT domain protein, has major effects on an array of traits in rice, including number of grains per panicle, plant height and heading date. Enhanced expression of Ghd7 under long-day conditions delays heading and increases plant height and panicle size. Natural mutants with reduced function enable rice to be cultivated in temperate and cooler regions. Thus, Ghd7 has played crucial roles for increasing productivity and adaptability of rice globally.