Necrotrophic pathogens of the cool season food legumes (pea, lentil, chickpea, faba bean and lupin) cause wide spread disease and severe crop losses throughout the world. Environmental conditions play an important role in the development and spread of these diseases. Form of inoculum, inoculum concentration and physiological plant growth stage all affect the degree of infection and the amount of crop loss. Measures to control these diseases have relied on identification of resistant germplasm and development of resistant varieties through screening in the field and in controlled environments. Procedures for screening and scoring germplasm and breeding lines for resistance have lacked uniformity among the various programs worldwide. However, this review highlights the most consistent screening and scoring procedures that are simple to use and provide reliable results. Sources of resistance to the major necrotrophic fungi are summarized for each of the cool season food legumes. Marker-assisted selection is underway for Ascochyta blight of pea, lentil and chickpea, and Phomopsis blight of lupin. Other measures such as fungicidal control and cultural control are also reviewed. The emerging genomic information on the model legume, Medicago truncatula, which has various degrees of genetic synteny with the cool season food legumes, has promise for identification of closely linked markers for resistance genes and possibly for eventual map-based cloning of resistance genes. Durable resistance to the necrotrophic pathogens is a common goal of cool season food legume breeders.