The effect of advancing the sowing date from early February to November on the growth and seed and straw yields of three large seeded and three small seeded lines of lentil (Lens culinaris) was studied under rainfed conditions in northern Syria between 1982 and 1985. The average seed and straw yields from early winter sowing were 838 and 2476 kg ha-1 compared with 679 and 1470 kg ha-1, respectively, from a late sown crop. There were seasonal differences in the advantage in seed yield from early sowing, largely because infestation by Orobanche species limited the use of early sowing. There were no overall differences between the growth and yields of large and small seeded lines, but genetic variation within groups was apparent for all characters. A high rate of dry matter accumulation, manifested as early vigour, was always related to a high final economic biomass.