Carotenoid cleavage dioxygenases (CCDs) form hormones and signaling molecules. Here we show that a member of an overlooked plant CCD subfamily from rice, that we name Zaxinone Synthase (ZAS), can produce zaxinone, a novel apocarotenoid metabolite in vitro. Loss-of-function mutants (zas) contain less zaxinone, exhibit retarded growth and showed elevated levels of strigolactones (SLs), a hormone that determines plant architecture, mediates mycorrhization and facilitates infestation by root parasitic weeds, such as Striga spp. Application of zaxinone can rescue zas phenotypes, decrease SL content and release and promote root growth in wild-type seedlings. In conclusion, we show that zaxinone is a key regulator of rice development and biotic interactions and has potential for increasing crop growth and combating Striga, a severe threat to global food security.