The survival of plants, as sessile organisms, depends on a series of postembryonic developmental events that determine the final architecture of plants and allow them to contend with a continuously changing environment. Modulation of cell differentiation and organ formation by environmental signals has not been studied in detail. Here, we report that alterations in the pattern of lateral root (LR) formation and emergence in response to phosphate (Pi) availability is mediated by changes in auxin sensitivity in Arabidopsis thaliana roots. These changes alter the expression of auxin-responsive genes and stimulate pericycle cells to proliferate. Modulation of auxin sensitivity by Pi was found to depend on the auxin receptor TRANSPORT INHIBITOR RESPONSE1 (TIR1) and the transcription factor AUXIN RESPONSE FACTOR19 (ARF19). We determined that Pi deprivation increases the expression of TIR1 in Arabidopsis seedlings and causes AUXIN/INDOLE-3-ACETIC ACID (AUX/IAA) auxin response repressors to be degraded. Based on our results, we propose a model in which auxin sensitivity is enhanced in Pi-deprived plants by an increased expression of TIR1, which accelerates the degradation of AUX/IAA proteins, thereby unshackling ARF transcription factors that activate/repress genes involved in LR formation and emergence.