Folate plays an important role in the pathogenesis of several chronic diseases by its potential ability to modulate DNA methylation. We hypothesized that the postweaning period might be a highly susceptible period to dietary folate intervention for DNA methylation patterning. We determined the effects of timing and duration of dietary folate intervention provided during the postweaning period on genomic DNA methylation in adult rat liver. In study 1, weanling rats were randomized to receive an amino acid-defined diet containing 0 (deficient), 2 (control), or 8 (supplemented) mg folic acid/kg until 8 wk of age, after which all the rats were fed the control diet until 30 wk of age. In study 2, weanling rats were fed the control diet until 8 wk of age and then randomized to receive the diet containing 0, 2, or 8 mg folic acid/kg until 30 wk of age. In study 3, weanling rats were randomized to receive these diets until 30 wk of age. Dietary folate deficiency, but not supplementation, provided during the postweaning period through childhood to puberty significantly increased genomic DNA methylation by 34-48% (P < 0.04) in rat liver that persisted into adulthood following a return to the control diet at puberty. In contrast, dietary folate deficiency or supplementation continually imposed at weaning or at puberty did not significantly affect genomic DNA methylation in adult rat liver. Our data suggest that early folate nutrition during postnatal development plays an important role in epigenetic programming that can have a permanent effect in adulthood.