Ascochyta blight of field pea, caused by Didymella pinodes, Phoma medicaginis var. pinodella, Phoma koolunga and Didymella pisi, is controlled through manipulating sowing dates to avoid ascospores of D. pinodes, and by field selection and foliar fungicides. This study investigated the relationship between number of ascospores of D. pinodes at sowing and disease intensity at crop maturity. Field pea stubble infested with ascochyta blight from one site was exposed to ambient conditions at two sites, repeated in 2 years. Three batches of stubble with varying degrees of infection were exposed at one site, repeated in 3 years. Every 2 weeks, stubble samples were retrieved, wetted and placed in a wind tunnel and up to 2500 ascospores g−1 h−1 were released. Secondary inoculum, monitored using seedling field peas as trap plants in canopies arising from three sowing dates and external to field pea canopies, was greatest in early sown crops. A model was developed to calculate the effective number of ascospores using predictions from G1 blackspot manager (Salam et al., 2011b; Australasian Plant Pathology, 40, 621–31), distance from infested stubble (Salam et al., 2011a; Australasian Plant Pathology, 40, 640–7) and winter rainfall. Maximum disease intensity was predicted based on the calculated number of effective ascospores, soilborne inoculum and spring rainfall over two seasons. Predictions were validated in the third season with data from field trials and commercial crops. A threshold amount of ascospores of D. pinodes, 294 g−1 stubble h−1, was identified, above which disease did not increase. Below this threshold there was a linear relationship between ascospore number and maximum disease intensity.