The ribosomal DNA (rDNA) genes of Saccharomyces cerevisiae are located in a tandem array of about 150 repeats. Using a diploid with markers flanking and within the rDNA array, we showed that low levels of DNA polymerase alpha elevate recombination between both homologues and sister chromatids, about five-fold in mitotic cells and 30-fold in meiotic cells. This stimulation is independent of Fob1p, a protein required for the programmed replication fork block (RFB) in the rDNA. We observed that the fob1 mutation alone significantly increased meiotic, but not mitotic, rDNA recombination, suggesting a meiosis-specific role for this protein. We found that meiotic cells with low polymerase alpha had decreased Sir2p binding and increased Spo11p-catalyzed double-strand DNA breaks in the rDNA. Furthermore, meiotic crossover interference in the rDNA is absent. These results suggest that the hyper-Rec phenotypes resulting from low levels of DNA polymerase alpha in mitosis and meiosis reflect two fundamentally different mechanisms: the increased mitotic recombination is likely due to increased double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs) resulting from Fob1p-independent stalled replication forks, whereas the hyper-Rec meiotic phenotype results from increased levels of Spo11-catalyzed DSBs in the rDNA.